Pakistani president repeals colonial-era law against suicide

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan has amended a section of the country’s criminal law to repeal a colonial-era legislation against suicide, the president’s office announced.

The development came in the form of an amendment, signed late Friday by President Arif Alvi and announced by his office on Twitter. The amendment, introduced by the secular Pakistan People’s Party, was approved by the parliament’s upper house, or Senate, three months ago.

Under the previous legislation — a vestige of colonial times from before the 1947 partition that carved out India and Pakistan from the former British Empire — attempted suicide was punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine or both in Pakistan.

Salman Sufi, a close aide of Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, welcomed the amendment and said that each and every person in distress, considering an extreme measure such as taking one’s own life, must be helped and saved.

Suicide is still a crime in some countries and though many nations have abolished laws against it, there is still stigma that surrounds it.

According to a 2019 World Health Organization report about suicide worldwide, more than 700,000 people died by suicide that year, prompting the introduction of new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.

WHO estimated that at least eight people in 100,000 took their own life in Pakistan in 2019, though the actual number is believed to be far higher as many cases go unreported to avoid a police investigation.

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