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India government to decriminalize suicide attempts

December 10, 2014

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s government said Wednesday that it was decriminalizing suicide attempts, which earlier were punishable by up to a year in prison.

People who attempt suicide and survive will no longer be treated as criminals, with the government removing Section 309 of the Penal Code from the statute book, junior Home Minister Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told Parliament.

Suicides have been on the rise in India, where thousands of farmers who are unable to pay back loans end their lives every year. The loans — from banks and loan sharks — are often used by farmers to buy seed and farm equipment, or to pay large dowries to get their daughters married. But a bad harvest can put a farmer deeply in debt.

According to the government, there were 131,400 suicides in 2011 in India, a country of more than 1.2 billion people. Social and economic problems led most of the males to commit suicide, while most of the females ended their lives for emotional and personal reasons.

Soli Sorabjee, a top Indian lawyer, welcomed the government’s decision, saying that a suicide attempt is a manifestation of a person’s condition of mind, deserving of treatment and not punishment.

Previously, suicide attempts in India were punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine, or both.

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