KIGALI - If Parliament approves the latest proposal in the penal code, survivors of suicide attempts will no longer have to endure the wrath of the law.
The current penal code criminalises attempted suicide and the amendment proposal passed by the parliament recently had retained the same clause.
Article 162 of the penal code indicates that any person who tries to commit suicide, shall be liable to an imprisonment term of between two to five years.
The same article, however, sets jail terms for anyone who incites or help others to commit suicide or provoke someone to suicide by causing them unbearable trouble.
The draft penal code, in its article 605, also sets a jail term for whoever is found guilty of begging.
“Any person found guilty of begging shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of eight days to six months…Any beggar who, uses threats, enters a dwelling or its compound without the consent of the owner, pretends to be ill or disabled or adopts behaviour that reduces him her to a pitiful state shall be liable to imprisonment for six months to one year,” reads article 605.
The article sparked off a heated debate among senators who were reviewing the penal code, with one side claiming that beggars should not be punished.
Senators later agreed to retain the jail term for begging and requested judicial officers to re-draft it.
Despite requests from activists, senators intend to retain jail sentences for abortion and prostitution.
Previously, several activist groups had petitioned Parliament requesting that the lawmakers decriminalise abortion and prostitution but the requests fell to deaf ears.
In a new twist, the ongoing amendments on the penal code have significantly cut down the jail sentences on some crimes with an intention to reduce the number of people sent to prison.
People charged with minor offenses will now serve their sentence by doing community work or paying fines.
“Sending a criminal to jail may not necessarily change him, actually some people commit crimes with an intention to making a profit out of their wrong deed, that’s why they have to pay back in one way or the other,” said Senator Marie Mukantabana, who is also the vice president of the Senate.