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Attempted suicide decriminalized in Ghana

Ghana Parliament

Parliament has passed the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to decriminalise attempted suicides.

The Private Members’ Bill was laid in Parliament on August 2, 2021, by Mr Frank Annor-Dompreh, the Majority Chief Whip on behalf of the Sponsors – Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, the Chairman, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and Mr Bernard Ahiafor, Ranking Member of the Committee, pursuant to Article 106(1) of the 1992 Constitution.

The objective of the Bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) to decriminalise attempted suicide and provide for related matters.

Clause (1) of the Bill seeks to repeal subsection (2) of section 57 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).
Whereas Clause (2) is intended as a consequential amendment which seeks to expand the interpretation for “mental disorder” as contained in section 97 of the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846) to provide for access to mental health care service survivors of suicide attempts.

According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2021, seven persons per 10,000 people within the Ghanaian population died by suicide in the year 2019.

Presenting the report of the Committee to the House, Mr Anyimadu-Antwi said the research conducted on the prevalence rates of suicidal be behaviours among university students in Ghana revealed that 6.3 per cent had attempted suicide, 24.3 per cent wish they were dead, whiles 6.8 per cent had ideations.

He said psychological distress was a risk factor in all cases.
He noted that another study also revealed that a 27.6 per cent prevalence rate of suicide attempts in a month, among junior high schools (JHSs) students in Ghana.

Touching on the state of prosecution, he said the Committee noted that 21 attempted suicide survivors were prosecuted between the period 2001 to 2011.

Mr Anyimadu-Antwi said a total of 17, representing 81.00 per cent of the defendants were males, whereas four (19.00 per cent) were female.

He said the Committee’s report indicated it was instructive to note that most persons prosecuted for attempted suicide during the period were of low socioeconomic background.

He said six persons representing, 28.6 per cent were unemployed at the time of the crime, three (14.3 per cent) were peasant farmers, two (9.5 per cent) were students, two (9.5 per cent) were taxi drivers, one was a fisherman, one was a teacher and one was a labourer.

He said the Committee gathered that among the key motivations underlying attempted and completed suicides were experiences of shame related to loss of economic control, sexual weakness, marriage and family problems, poverty, and financial difficulties; evasion of dishonour and punishment, health problems and previous attempted suicides.

Mr Ahiafor thanked members of the Committee and the House for supporting them to pass the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

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