KAMPALA – Activists have run to the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of section 210 of the Penal Code Act that criminalizes attempted suicide.
These say that the act creates a lot of barriers, perpetuates stigma but also limits people from accessing mental health services when they need them.
Kizza Derrick Mbuga, the Executive Director of Mental Health Uganda told the media after filing the case on Friday that despite harsh laws, suicide remains the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, especially for people between 15 and 29 years of age claiming 700,000 lives every year.
He noted that Uganda lacks information about suicide despite its seriousness, considering the recent study done at the primary health centers, which reported about 130 cases of attempted suicide, and 26 cases of suicides during Covid-19 pandemic. Kizza says the problem is becoming more rampant even after COVID-19 which calls for solutions, not criminalization.
According to him, research shows that in many countries where there is a law criminalizing suicide, suicide does not drop.
“Instead of victimizing me for attempting suicide, the approach should be that you should have worked on the issues that prompted me to consider suicide especially the social aspects of life access to opportunities, and access to employment,” he said.
Kizza notes that lack of social fabric that supports people within their communities may result in higher cases of people taking away their lives.
Ms. Kange Veronica, an advocate noted that the section offends various provisions of the constitution.
“Our main argument is that attempted suicide is more of a public health problem. All persons who attempt suicide should be considered under the armpit of public health and, therefore, should be given the due medical attention they require rather than incarcerating them which gives them more triggers to further attempt suicide. We hope that the constitutional court will find in our favor so that we can make a step in ending the stigma that we found in research that is worsening the original condition.”
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