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Home / Mental Health

Doctors now want suicide decriminalised

By ANTONY GITONGA | Fri,Sep 10 2021 08:00:00 EAT

 Prof Lukoye Atwoli (left) and Dr Frank Njenga during the Kenya Psychiatric Association annual meeting. The medics are now calling for the repeal of Section 226 of the Penal Code that criminalises suicide. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The Kenya Psychiatric Association is now calling for the repeal of Section 226 of the Penal Code that criminalizes suicide.

According to the association, the victims of suicidal thoughts require compassion and not jail terms as has been the case in the country.

Under Kenyan law, attempted suicide is a crime. In the Penal Code, any person who attempts to kill himself/herself is guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty is up to two years in prison or a fine or both.

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day today, mental health experts challenged Parliament to move with haste and delete the section of the law.

According to the association’s President Dr Chitayi Murabula, several countries had already repealed laws that criminalized suicide.

This emerged yesterday during the psychiatrist’s association annual scientific conference where the main theme is ‘Suicide Prevention’.

He challenged Kenya to emulate England, Finland, Netherlands and India which has noted that the law was defective and the victims needed mental support.

“We are calling on Parliament to move with haste and repeal Section 226 that has seen tens of suicidal suspects jailed in the country,” Murabula said.

He said that the victims should not be punished adding that research had indicated that there were underlying mental illnesses among them.

“We are also developing a policy to prevent suicide cases in the country and to protect and treat those suffering from this illness,” he said.

This was echoed by a member of the association Prof Lukoye Atwoli who said that suicide cases should be de-linked from the police and instead be dealt with by health experts.

“We should repeal this law as it condemns some sick people to prison which is very unfair as they require medical attention,” he said.

Atwoli who is also the chairman of the board of Mathari Hospital denied the that suicide cases were on the rise, adding that no study had been done to prove this.

“The media has become more active in reporting these cases but there is no conclusive data to prove that they are on the rise as alluded in some quarters,” he said.

He said that they were working closely with the Media Council of Kenya on reporting of mental health and mainly on suicide prevention. 

The medic challenged the media to be more responsible in reporting suicide cases.

Dr Frank Njenga who is the presidential advisor on mental health admitted that there was need for a research over the ongoing suicide cases.

“It is not clear if the suicide and murder cases within family setting are related but there is an emerging trend that is worrying,” he said. 

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