Suicide Attempt Not Crime – Parliament


In a successful private member’s bill in the House, Parliament has amended the Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29) to decriminalise attempted suicide in the nation.

Under the new rules, no one will be prosecuted for attempted suicide, which remains a major public health problem.

Section 57 (1) of the Criminal Offence Act stipulates that, “a person who attempts to commit suicide commits a misdemeanor.”

Since 1960, Ghana has had an anti-suicide legislation in place, and this legislation was passed down from the country’s former British colonial administration.

MPs passed the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021, on Tuesday, stating that attempted suicide is unquestionably a health issue when one considers the reasons for suicidal behaviour.

NDC MP for Akatsi South, Bernard Ahiafor, who sponsored the bill, moved for the third reading of the bill and it was seconded by the Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi.

According to the lawmakers, suicidal behaviour is a mental health problem, asserting that the country’s anti-suicide law has outlived its usefulness.

They contended that the law was agreed upon in 1960 on the basis that people have no right to take their own lives, and that the law has a deterrent effect, helping to reduce the suicide rate.

They said research had proven that suicide mortality rate was still high, an indication that the deterrent effect has not been effective.

During the bill’s consideration stage, the House amended section 57 of Act 29 to read, “A person commits a first degree felony if the person, knowing that another person has suicidal thoughts, does an act that is aimed at aiding, assisting, facilitating, or encouraging the person to commit or attempt to commit suicide, whether or not the suicide is actually committed.”

The House also made a consequential amendment to the Mental Health Act 2012 (Act 846) to state that anyone who attempts suicide is presumed to have a severe mental disorder, and the provisions of the Mental Health Act apply.

By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House