December 10 2022 1:13 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Lower House passes law penalizing attempted suicide

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AMMAN — The Lower House of Parliament on Monday passed a bill penalizing attempted suicide in public spaces by either up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to JD100, or both. The law also specifies that in case of attempted mass suicide the punishment will increase. اضافة اعلان

Suicide rates in Jordan have risen over the past 10 years, with 2020 recording the highest number of suicides: one every two days.

Zaid Al-Otoom, a lawyer and member of the Lower House Legal Committee, told Jordan News that the decision is unreasonable “because it does not take into account the vulnerable section of society and those with mental and psychological problems”.

According to Otoom, the world “has been moving away from criminalizing suicide attempts”, and that just around 20 countries still criminalize it. He said that individuals who take this step frequently probably suffer from problems, so “criminalizing the act is unjust”.

As for those who feign suicide for emotional blackmail, Otoom said that by law, “acquitting 1,000 criminals is preferable to convicting one innocent person, and therefore this matter needs to be examined from a scientific and specialized perspective in order to comprehend” what prompted a person to act in such a way and address the causes.

“This is a step backward, and quite weird,” Walid Al-Sarhan, a specialist and consultant in psychiatry, told Jordan News.

He expects the Penal Code to be amended as it is “already flawed when it comes to mental disorders, particularly Articles 91 and 92, which divide people into only two categories, sane and insane, and require that the insane live in hospitals for the rest of their lives”.
Suicide rates in Jordan have risen over the past 10 years, with 2020 recording the highest number of suicides: one every two days.
Sarhan said that in cases of attempted suicide, the law originally specified that the public prosecutor must determine whether it was indeed the individual’s initiative or “was prompted by another person”.

Most countries’ laws, he said, require security and judicial organizations to ensure that someone who attempts suicide is sent to a psychiatric care institution; Jordan does not have such stipulation in its law.

The recent parliamentary decision, said Sarhan, is “unexpected and upsetting, and violates the most basic human right, which is the right to health and treatment in the event of illness”.

“Despite the passing of four decades of attempts to alter the Penal Code, those who authorize laws appear to have no insight in or experience with the specifics and reasons for a person’s decision to commit suicide,” he said.

According to statistics he mentioned, 75 percent of suicides are caused by depression, 15 percent by schizophrenia, and the rest are caused by addiction or other problems.

Suicide attempts, on the other hand, have many causes, “but there is no reason or logical explanation for the decision to punish those who attempt suicide”, Sarhan said.

“This decision appears to have been made in haste and without careful consideration; the deputies did not pay attention to the legal articles that needed to be amended, and injustice continues to be perpetrated against people every day as a result of laws that were ratified 70 years ago.”

“A person who attempts suicide is different from a suicide bomber,” sociologist Hussain Al-Khozahe told Jordan News.

A person who attempts suicide, he said, “has an issue that he wants to share with the society; he seeks aid from others, thus the best way to solve the problem is not to punish this person as if he or she were a criminal”.

According to Khozahe, “90 percent of those who attempt suicide suffer from psychological and mental disorders and, often, overlapping social and economic difficulties, and the inability to solve these problems leads to depression, so such individuals must be taken to a medical facility right after persuading them not to commit suicide”.

According to Khozahe, suicide attempts “exhaust the country economically and security-wise, with the most concerning aspect being that this may lead to these people in prisons persuading others to commit suicide”.

As such, he believes that the best solution is to offer psychological, social, and religious help, “which is only available in special clinics, which do not exist in Jordan”.

Khozahe emphasized that this would not necessarily curb the number of suicide attempts, it would rather be a way out of the problem, “because no scientific study has been published that shows that incarceration and fines cure and help individuals who attempt suicide”.

According to a 2020 report, he said, the number of suicide cases increased to 169 over the 116 cases in 2019. In addition to these figures, Khozahe said that Jordanian prisons have the capacity to house 13,000 convicts, yet there are currently 19,000 inmates in jails.

Psychologist Musa Matarneh told Jordan News that suicide is “due to disturbances and intense psychological pressure”, that it is “an unconscious scenario of which the person is not fully aware” emphasizing that “such a person cannot be a criminal and receive punishment”.

“What a person who attempts suicide does is to wrong himself, not others, so it would be more appropriate for the legislators to consider this point and work to address it, because the law is intended to protect society, not to inflict injustice and oppression on those who are already suffering from societal and psychological injustice,” said Matarneh.

“Whoever decided this legal amendment did not consider the psychological and social aspects, and overlooked the fact that suicide attempts are a result of lack of social solidarity and psychological support, and as a result, suicide cases have been on the rise since 2015,” he added.

According to Matarneh, “the legislature needs to pay psychiatrists to identify and analyze the problem, and come up with a strategy to protect rather than just apply sanctions”.

“Such a judgment is unjust, and does not answer a social need. It does not deter a societal issue that would have been better considered strategically by the concerned authorities concerned with human beings,” he added.

The government, he believes, should provide a supportive environment for people who attempt suicide, and that can be accomplished by developing strategies, projects, and programs, in collaboration with experts, to help these individuals cope with the burdens and psychological pressures they face.

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