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MOH To Propose Immediate Stay On Charges Brought Against Those Who Attempt Suicide

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told the Dewan Rakyat that the step is being taken to defer sentencing of the offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code until amendments to the Act are made to decriminalise suicide attempts.

Cover image via Bernama via New Straits Times

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Malaysia's move to decriminalise suicide is underway with the Ministry of Health (MOH) preparing a memorandum to ask the Cabinet to put a moratorium on charges brought against those who attempt suicide

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, while wrapping up his ministerial replies on Budget 2022 yesterday, 17 November, told the Dewan Rakyat that the step is being taken to defer sentencing of the offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code until amendments to the Act are made to decriminalise suicide attempts.

"This memorandum is to seek Cabinet approval for an immediate moratorium period whereby no charges or convictions will be made under Section 309 for attempted suicide cases pending the repeal or amendment of the provision in Parliament," he said, adding that the paperwork is pending review by other ministries.

Under Section 309 of the Penal Code, those charged with attempted suicide can be jailed for up to one year or fined or both, if convicted

The frequent use of Section 309 amidst the pandemic led to calls for the government to change its response towards suicide attempts to a public health response rather than a criminal punishment.

Earlier this year, Prishalini Rajagumar, a psychology and cognitive neuroscience graduate who wrote in to SAYS, argued that punishing those who are already in distress as a method to curb this issue only serves to worsen the crisis as it pushes individuals to choose more irreversible means of harming themselves to ensure that their attempt is successful to avoid prosecution should they survive.

Malaysia recorded 336 suicide cases in the first three months of this year.

There were 631 suicide cases in 2020, according to police statistics.

Meanwhile, between 25 March last year and 7 November this year, a total of 232,873 calls were made to psychosocial hotlines managed by MOH and MERCY Malaysia, and Talian Kasih.

Khairy said that the calls were on various issues such as loss of jobs and incomes, and domestic and family problems with about 80% of them seeking emotional and psychological support.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

If you or anyone you know is lonely, distressed, or having negative thoughts, please call these Malaysian hotlines:

1. BEFRIENDERS KL
24-hour
Contact: +603-76272929
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

2. TALIAN KASIH
24-hour
Contact: 15999
WhatsApp: +6019-2615999
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook

3. BUDDY BEAR CHILDLINE
Daily (12pm - 12am)
Contact: 1800-18-2327
Email: [email protected]
Facebook | Instagram

For a more thorough directory of resources, head over to the websites of Malaysian Mental Health Association or MINDAKAMI.

The announcement about the moratorium comes a couple of months after the Ministry of Home Affairs and Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) said that they have agreed to abolish Section 309: