Parliament: attempted suicide no longer a crime

A rope used to hang people

Ghana’s Parliament has in a landmark decision decriminalized suicide in the country. The decision means persons who attempt to take their own lives would now be considered to have mental issues and required medical attention.

There had been opposition to the calls for that part of the Criminal Offenses Act 1960 to be amended. Some of those included former Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu who argued that the act should remain criminal. He said people should be punished for any attempted suicide to serve as a deterrent to others.

“You do not want to think that when you have depression and distress, the ultimate thing is that you go and take your life since you cannot recover your life back,” the MP argued.

On the other hand, the CEO of the Mental Health Authority said the act needs to be seen as a medical condition rather than a crime. He also called for a change in the type of words used to describe attempted suicide.

“I am trying harder not to say ‘people who wanted to commit suicide’ – it’s a language we want to move away from. So, don’t say ‘somebody who committed suicide’ because that criminalises the offence,” Prof Akwesi Osei said.

“We are trying to get us to understand that attempted suicide is not a crime, even though we don’t encourage it. It is a condition that requires support, largely mental illness,” he added.

“So, in all our discourses, let’s move away from ‘committed suicide’ to say ‘take his/her life by suicide’ or ‘die by suicide’,” Prof Osei argued.

According to a report by Macrotrends, suicide mortality rates had been on the decrease in Ghana between 2015 and 2018. The figure stood at 7.2 per cent per 100,000 deaths in 2016 and declined marginally to 6.6 per cent in 2018.

Data from the World Bank also showed the figure remained at 6.6 per cent in 2019.

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