Parliament last Tuesday passed the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
The object of the bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) to decriminalise attempted suicide and provide for related matters.
If assented to by the President, the bill will ensure that survivors of attempted suicide will no longer be at risk of being apprehended, prosecuted and penalised; they would rather receive medical and psychological help.
The overall aim of the bill is to concede that attempted suicide is a mental health condition, and thus, to provide opportunities to support those who may be found in those circumstances.
In general, the bill will also help decongest the prisons and reduce caseloads on prosecutors.
The bill was laid in the House on August 2, 2021 by the Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, on behalf of the sponsors of the bill.
It was subsequently referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration, and for them to report back to the House.
The private members bill was sponsored by the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Asante Akim Central, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, and the National Democratic Congress MP for Akatsi South, Bernard Ahiafor.
Per a report of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, signed by Mr Anyimadu-Antwi, who is the Chairman of the committee the members gathered that among the key motivations underlying attempted and completed suicides were experiences of shame related to the loss of economic control, sexual weakness, marriage and familial problems.
Others, the report said, were poverty and financial difficulties, evasion of dishonour and punishment, health problems and previous attempted suicides.
During the second reading of the bill on March 23, 2023, Mr Anyimadu-Antwi said the proponents of the bill were of the view that suicide was a mental health issue and, therefore, must not be treated as a criminal act.
He cited some research findings that were made available to the committee during its work.
The research, he said, showed that a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2021 revealed that seven persons per 100,000 people died out of suicide in 2019.
In his view, suicide acts in universities in Ghana were also on the ascendency, showing that 6.3 per cent of university students attempted suicide, 24.3 per cent wished they were dead, while 6.8 per cent had plans to commit suicide.
He mentioned one prevalent factor that contributed to suicidal acts as psychological distress.
At the junior high school level, he said the research found out that 27.6 per cent of adolescents also attempted suicide.
The chairman indicated that interactions with some female victims, who were put before court for attempting suicide, revealed that they could not bear the heartbreaks that came with terminating relationships with their boyfriends and decided to end their lives.
“The males on the other hand were influenced by financial difficulties,” he said.
Mr Anyimadu-Antwi said based on those factors, the committee came to the conclusion that suicide was more of a mental issue rather than criminal and, hence should not be criminalised.
“The committee has examined the provisions of the bill and is of the view that the best remedy to dealing with attempted suicide is to provide avenues in schools, workshops, workplaces and community centres for stressed persons with emotional problems to seek therapy and treatment.
“The committee accordingly recommends to the House to adopt its report and pass the Criminal Offences Bill into law in accordance with Article 107 of the 1992 Constitution,” he said.
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