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Malaysia seeks to decriminalize suicide attempts

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Attorney General said Tuesday (4 April) that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government seeks to decriminalize suicide attempts as part of a number of recent legal reforms.

The announcement comes one day after Malaysia’s parliament voted on Monday to abolish the mandatory death penalty, reduce the number of crimes punishable by death and abolish natural life imprisonment.

Currently, the law provides that anyone who attempts suicide can face up to one year in prison, a fine, or both.

Justice Minister Azalina Osman Saeed said in a statement on Tuesday that the government wants to repeal it but will keep “assisted suicide” a criminal offence.

The government also proposed tougher penalties for assisted suicide cases involving children and people with mental disabilities.

“It is based on the fact that suicide attempts fall within the category of suicidal behavior, which is a mental disorder or the effects of a mental disorder,” Azalina said.

In a commentary last year, former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysia recorded 1,142 suicide cases in 2021 compared to 631 in 2020.

According to the latest data from the World Bank, the death rate by suicide in 2019 was 5.7 per 100,000 population.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said a proposal to decriminalize suicide attempts was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, but a vote is likely to take place in the next parliament.

Azalina said the government hopes the reforms will encourage those affected to seek help, de-stigmatize suicide and lower the country’s suicide mortality rate.

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