Malaysia seeks to decriminalize suicide attempts

April 5, 2023 - 2:59 PM
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Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Rizal Park, in Manila, Philippines, March 2, 2023. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David/File Photo)

Malaysia is seeking to decriminalize suicide attempts, its law minister said on Tuesday, the latest in a recent slew of legal reforms pursued by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government.

The announcement comes a day after Malaysia’s parliament on Monday voted to remove the mandatory death penalty, trim the number of offences punishable by death, and abolish natural-life prison sentences.

The law currently stipulates that anyone attempting suicide can be jailed for up to one year, fined, or both.

The government wants to repeal that but will retain “aiding and abetting” suicide as a criminal offense, Law Minister Azalina Othman Said said in a statement on Tuesday.

The government also proposes strengthening punishment for cases of aiding suicide involving children and mentally incapacitated people.

“This is based on the fact that suicide attempts are within the scope of suicidal behavior and this act is the impact of mental incapacity or psychiatric disorder,” Azalina said.

In comments made last year, former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysia had in 2021 recorded 1,142 suicide cases, compared to 631 cases in 2020.

Its suicide mortality rate was at 5.7 per 100,000 population in 2019, according to the most recent data from World Bank.

The proposal to decriminalize suicide attempts was introduced in the lower house on Tuesday, though a vote will likely only take place in the next parliament session, a law ministry spokesperson said.

Azalina said the government hopes the reform will encourage those affected to seek help, remove the stigma of suicide, and lower the country’s suicide death rate.

—Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Martin Petty