LifeLine International, a prominent global civil society organization committed to suicide prevention, has recently initiated a campaign aimed at advocating for the “decriminalization of suicide worldwide.” This campaign specifically targets African countries where suicide is still considered a criminal act, with the objective of bringing about legal reforms in these regions.
The initial stage of the campaign will prioritize advocating for legislative reform in Nigeria and Malawi. These two countries currently criminalize attempted suicide, but there is a notable and increasing momentum for change in these jurisdictions.
According to a recent campaign brief by LifeLine International, in Africa, there are a minimum of eleven countries with a collective population of approximately five hundred million where the act of attempted suicide is still considered a criminal offense. This information has been compiled with valuable input from the International Bar Association.
According to a statement provided to our correspondent, it has been observed that laws criminalizing suicide tend to be linked with increased suicide rates. This is primarily due to their ineffectiveness as deterrents and their tendency to discourage individuals in suicidal distress from seeking assistance.
The decriminalization of suicide is expected to contribute to the attainment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of reducing global suicide rates by 30 percent by the year 2030. LifeLine International aims to actively pursue legal reforms while simultaneously dedicating efforts towards the establishment or improvement of crisis line services.
LifeLine International aims to utilize its vast experience in campaigning, coalition-building, and policy reform to drive meaningful change in Nigeria and Malawi. Our organization will actively engage with civil society, governments, and service providers to achieve tangible results. The statement highlights that decriminalization has gained significant traction over the past five years, resulting in legal reforms being implemented in Ghana, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, and Singapore.
During the commencement of the campaign, Prof. Taiwo Sheikh, the African coordinator for Lifeline International, urged governments throughout the continent to expedite advancements, decriminalize suicide, and enforce preventive measures.
Sheikh emphasized that the decriminalization of suicide in Africa is a pressing matter, considering the existence of numerous outdated laws that require repeal across the continent. The criminalization of suicide fails to align with a compassionate approach to care and does not effectively discourage individuals from attempting suicide. Furthermore, it does not adequately address the root causes and underlying factors contributing to suicidal thoughts. The stance contradicts the cultural and religious values of Africa, which prioritize empathy and understanding.
LifeLine International is dedicated to collaborating with its Members on the continent, as well as other influential stakeholders such as Africa CDC. This collaboration aims to build upon the remarkable ongoing initiatives throughout the continent.
Nigeria and Malawi are making significant progress in their efforts to decriminalize and enhance crisis support services for individuals experiencing distress. We can actualize this vision.
The organization has expressed its intention to actively collaborate with governments and civil society organizations in the 16 African countries where legal frameworks are ambiguous. The objective is to foster clarity and advocate for the elimination of obstacles that hinder individuals from accessing assistance.
The campaign is in line with Africa CDC’s dedication to assisting countries in removing legislation that hinders mental health.
The campaign aims to utilize the health agency’s ability to convene and make policy decisions in order to achieve policy reform. The World Health Organisation also supports the decriminalization of suicide, a stance that was endorsed by health ministers in 2013.
Today marks the launch of two digital platforms as integral components of the campaign. The first platform is a social change campaign platform designed to serve as the public representation of the campaign. The second platform is a specialized knowledge platform intended for use by experts, NGOs, civil society organizations, and crisis support services. Its purpose is to facilitate the acceleration of decriminalization efforts.
Thilini Perera, the CEO of LifeLine, expressed that their knowledge platform serves as a means to connect nations and promote advocacy for change. LifeLine International is dedicated to leveraging cutting-edge technology and mobilizing widespread support to expedite campaigns aimed at decriminalizing suicide. Our efforts aim to ensure that individuals residing in countries where suicide is still considered a criminal act can access the assistance they rightfully deserve.
We take great pride in our commitment to open-sourcing our knowledge in order to provide support to network participants. Our platform will facilitate the monitoring of progress and contribute to the advancement of a society where suicide is no longer considered a criminal act, the associated stigma is diminished, and individuals are encouraged and able to seek help more easily.