This paper discusses the reasons for the perception of the criminality of attempted suicide in Nepal, its consequences, and the ways of addressing them.
Authors: Leah Utyasheva, Gael Robertson & Jeevan R.Sharmac
Published in: International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
In 2018–2019, according to the official statistics, 5754 people died as a result of suicide in Nepal. This is a high number for a country with a population of 29 million people. Experts believe that the actual rate is considerably higher and that many suicides are not reported.
This underreporting of suicide is frequently blamed on the stigma and the criminality of attempted suicide. Yet, there has never been a criminal liability for attempted suicide in Nepal.
This article discusses the reasons for the perception of the criminality of attempted suicide in the country, its consequences, and the ways of addressing them. We found that the involvement of the police at the initial stages of suicide investigation confirms public perceptions that attempted suicide is a punishable offense and this may reinforce the stigma of suicide.
Recent criminalization of the abetment of suicide has contributed to this perception as the public may not be clear about the distinction between abetment of suicide and attempted suicide. Criminalization of suicide not in the laws but in minds discourages reporting and help-seeking behaviour and victimizes people who need support and services.
We argue that decriminalization is more than removing the outdated legal clauses from the legal statutes, but also public awareness raising about the reasons for police investigation of suspicious deaths, sensitivity training, and education of government officials, policymakers, and police about suicide and its prevention. These are needed to dispel the myth of criminalization of attempted suicide in Nepal. Our findings could be of wider interest to scholars working on reducing the stigma of suicide and decriminalization of suicide attempts.