Why Egypt is Wrong to Write a Law Criminalizing Suicide


Why Egypt is Wrong to Write a Law Criminalizing Suicide

Cairo, October 15: The city of Cairo is densely filled with old residential buildings, October 15, 2014, Cairo, Egypt

If you do a simple Google search for “Kid Cudi saved my life”, you will find thousands of posts, comments and interviews describing how Scott Mescudi, rapper and hip-hop artist, helped prevent suicide among young people aged 25 and under. Cudi himself battled severe depression and was the first to steer the conversation in hip-hop towards addressing mental health issues.

Cudi inspired a generation of teens and young adults to speak openly about their battles with depression. By allowing himself to openly discuss his anxiety, grief, depression, and survivor’s guilt, he paved the way for his audience to be equally open and vulnerable. In 2016, Cudi wasn’t afraid to share with his fans that he checked himself into rehab because he had strong suicidal urges and set an example that it’s okay to ask for help. help when needed. Cudi also works to combat the stigma associated with suicide, thereby saving lives.

In Egypt, the subjects of severe mental disorders were also brought to light more explicitly. Zap Tharwat, an Egyptian rapper, addressed prevalent mental health issues among young Egyptians, namely the affliction of suicide and depression in his song 25 (2018) with Sary Hany and featuring Hany El Dakkak. The song, which recorded 3.5 million views on YouTube, pointed out that 25% of Egyptian youth suffered from depressive and suicidal tendencies.

On January 8, the Egyptian Parliament received a new proposal to add an article to the Penal Code criminalizing non-fatal suicides. The proposal made the act punishable by up to three years under a forced institutional rehabilitation program and a fine of up to EGP 50,000 (USD 3,177).

In proposing this new law, MP Ahmed Mahana said that “suicide should be criminalized because those who attempt suicide are committing a crime against themselves, their families and their country, in addition to the sin and punishment that awaits them. in the afterlife”. ”

Mahana refers in the explanatory memorandum to article 177 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes incitement to suicide, and stresses the urgency for the Egyptian legislator to criminalize fatal and non-fatal suicide. Mahana believes that the Penal Code is deficient in that it only criminalizes incitement to suicide, unlike the Penal Codes of Qatar, Oman and Sudan, which severely punish non-fatal suicides with fines and penalties. imprisonment. Mahana also listed five fatal teenage male suicides across the country.

Egypt is a country that lacks mental health awareness. It is a country where basic and decent therapy and rehabilitation facilities (such as Behman Hospital in Helwan and Okasha Psychiatric Institute in New Cairo) are very expensive and accessible only to a few with sufficient financial means, and a country where public services and free mental health care facilities are of inferior quality, such as the Abasseya hospital, which is even nicknamed “crazy hospital” by the population.

This decision to draft a new – still outdated – law criminalizing suicide is a reaction by Egyptian lawmakers to the increase in youth suicide in Egypt. In March 2021, a woman in her twenties collided with a truck while driving in the opposite direction on Galala Road. In September 2021, in Nasr City, a girl threw herself from the sixth floor of a shopping mall. In December 2021, following constant bullying by his manager, an employee threw himself from the third floor of his company’s premises in New Cairo. In January 2022, 17-year-old Bassant died by suicide after being threatened with fake nudes by an anonymous person online and being humiliated by family members and teachers in response. A month after her sister’s death, Bassant’s younger sister attempted to end her life due to bullying and shame from members of her town.

These five recent publicly known fatal and non-fatal suicides highlight very critical societal issues that Egyptian adolescents and young adults face on a daily basis, including slut-shaming, sexual coercion, bullying and lack of awareness. mental health, suicide prevention programs and suicide bereavement support that would warn of suicide risks for survivors of suicide bereavement.

Lawmakers seem oblivious to the root causes of these young souls losing hope in life, and instead of taking steps toward constructive solutions, they turn a blind eye to these deeply toxic societal issues.

By enacting this law, lawmakers are contributing to the existing stigma surrounding suicide not only by criminalizing it, but also by spreading and affirming words that further stigmatize suicide, such as “commit”, “attempt”, “crime” and “punish” in the common language used to approach the subject. This adds further distress to the bereaved suicide, leading to increased stigma, shame and intimidation for those who remain in mourning.

It is truly sad to be alive and witness that in 2022 Egyptian lawmakers pass a law that was abolished in the UK over sixty years ago. Suicide was a crime in the UK until 1961, when people realized the common law’s flaw in treating suicide as a means to achieve criminal law goals; as a result, the Suicide Act 1961 was introduced to decriminalize it.

The British Suicide Act 1961 not only recognizes that suicide has long been enmeshed in medieval concepts and legalistic formalism, but that the problem is far too pressing to be ignored or left untouched.

When it comes to suicide, the central question is what drives a person to that final act, rather than whether or not that person should be treated and labeled as a criminal. This question is approached from two disparate angles: sociological and psychoanalytical.

Sociological analysis looks at the type of distress an individual faces and the needs that are governed by society, resulting in an inability to adapt to certain situations, and in the case of Egypt, the company’s flaws are quite obvious and need to be corrected. .

On the other hand, the psychoanalytic view is that non-fatal suicide is a symptom of mental illness, and the country’s solution is to provide accessible mental health care. Both approaches conclude that criminal liability for suicide makes no more sense than for any other symptom of any other distressing condition or illness.

Mental health advocates around the world are fighting lingering language from a time when suicide was considered a crime.

Nowadays, it is preferable to use the expressions “died by” rather than “committed”, and “fatal” and “non-fatal” rather than “successful” and “attempted” when discussing suicide.

Rapper Kid Cudi. Photo credit: J. Rivera

The world is encouraging a change in the way mental health issues are viewed; the rhetoric changes and obsolete laws are repealed; mental health is becoming more accessible, and artists like rapper Cudi continue to save lives through his music, to quote him “music is a platform for me to express myself and realize that I’m not not so crazy. There are other kids out there who might be depressed or lonely, dealing with suicide, things like that.

All opinions and views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To submit an opinion piece, please email [email protected]

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