To look at SECTION 325 in simpler terms, It is a law that is enacted for actively punishing failed suicides. The law has been part of Pakistan’s Criminal Penal Code, 1860 and as of 2019 is still in effect for the unfortunate people which it applies to. The law states, “Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offense shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
This absurd sounding law was introduced during the British colonial era and it just stuck. Section 325 actively criminalizes attempted suicide and punishes the ones already in a fragile mental state. As expected the Section 325, one of the cruelest laws in Pakistan proves to be a massive failure in suicide prevention. It’s not surprising that the highest risk of suicide in Pakistan happens to be for the people under the age of 30.
Suicidal tendencies are often seen as a result of depression and mental disorders and other high risk factors are vastly ignored. Issues like inability to cope with mounting financial pressures, high academic stress and failing relationships are just a few from the long list of factors. The need to repealing of Section 325 seems like a no-brainier yet it still continues to exist.
Pakistan is one of the signatories to the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan of 2013-20. The action plan’s key drive is suicide prevention all across the globe, but owing to Section 325 the efforts are over shadowed by the brutality of the law. Section 325 was attempted to be amended back in 2017 by Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja who presented an amendment bill to decriminalize suicide. However, despite the unanimous vote in favor by the Senate and Council of Islamic Ideology, the bill was not passed by the National Assembly. There have been no further developments in the Decriminalization of suicide since then.
Suicide prevention is near impossible to achieve when hospitals are legally held liable under Section 325. It is an excruciating reality that to avoid facing legal liabilities put forth by Section 325, hospitals and emergency clinics are growing more reluctant and in certain cases refusing to provide care. The sheer dearth of physical and mental health assistance is alarming in cases of attempted suicides.
It will always remain outside the realm of possibility to efficiently prevent suicides while Section 325 is still operational. To prevent suicides in Pakistan, we will not only need to revamp Section 325 but also change our whole perspective regarding suicide. Pin pointing the individuals experiencing suicidal tendencies not only requires the ability to provide the appropriate help, but also countering the stigmas that come with suicide. These stigmas reinforced by cruel laws are the key reasons suicide prevention is ineffective in Pakistan.
Therefore, the legislative bodies instead of averting their gaze need to draft a new, effective law that focuses of treatment rather than punishment. A treatment plan with effective and appropriate counseling is required. Instead of beating the suicide out of survivors by police, rehabilitation programs would prove to be far more effective.
As fellow members of society, we must continually remain aware of the warning signs and take some time to observe people close to us. Listening and conversing about mental health without judgment and guiding those who need is our role to play in suicide prevention.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The ACE News.
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03 April, 2020