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Judiciary Seeks to Remove Jail Sentence for Suicide Survivors

If a proposal by Chief Justice Martha Koome is approved, Kenyans who survive attempted suicide might receive health support rather than go to jail.

Section 226 of the Penal Code, which views attempted suicide as a misdemeanor, was suggested to be repealed by the Chief Justice in the Penal Code (Amendment) 2023.

The CJ proposed removing the entire section from the main Act in her presentation to Speaker Moses Wetangula of the National Assembly.

The Act stipulated that anyone found guilty of attempted suicide could face up to two years in prison, a fine, or both.

For years, the clause infuriated advocacy organizations, who said that imprisoning someone for trying to commit suicide was equivalent to punishing those who were mentally ill.

The Adhoc Committee on the Proliferation of Religious Organizations was asked by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) to decriminalise suicide attempts at the beginning of the year due to an increase in these attempts.

According to KNHRC, people who make suicide attempts have mental illnesses and should be brought to a hospital for treatment.

Commissioner Mariam Mutugi contended that it was incorrect to detain and charge survivors of Paul Mackenzie’s Goodnews International Church.

Upon the submissions, the Adhoc committee was looking into the Shakahola deaths.

In a petition to decriminalise suicide attempts, the KNHRC also included the Global Mental Health Network, which promotes mental health globally.

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