The following story was shared by AWARE, a gender-equality advocacy group, in their campaign for the repeal of Section 309.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), Section 309 is seizable (police must arrest suspects) and triggers mandatory reporting (third parties must report attempts or intentions to the police). Even if Section 309 is not immediately repealed, the CPC should be amended so that it is non-seizable and does not trigger mandatory reporting.
AWARE believes that when someone attempts suicide, it shows that they are not getting the help they need, and that society needs to provide help, not the threat of punishment.
Diagnosed with depression, E has thought a lot about ending her life. In 2015, she attempted suicide outside a hospital, choosing this location in case she changed her mind. She put 10 sleeping pills in her mouth, then spat them out, rinsed her mouth, and walked into A&E to “do the right thing” and seek help.
On her second night there, police officers came. She was interrogated and told that Section 309 charges might be brought. She spent 14 hours cuffed to the bed, her legs in restraints, with no idea what would happen next. She had to use a bedpan all night. The police officers she spoke to did not seem to know that depression is an illness, and they even told her that what she did was selfish.
E was moved to IMH over her (and her doctors’) objections. She had to pay for the ambulance. She estimated her C-class ward had 42 beds, mostly occupied. A staff member said “That bed is empty, you sleep there lor.” E smelled urine, faeces and menstrual blood, and saw other women in states of undress, some strapped to beds.
E called IMH “a place where you lose all your dignity, not a healing place.” To leave, E lied that she was stable and looking forward to her job. Discharged without any prescription or follow-up care, other than a further appointment in two weeks’ time, she went back to a full dose of her own medication, with all its side effects.
E has been issued a formal warning by the police that she will be charged if she attempts suicide again. This does not stop her from thinking about suicide, but it affects her thinking about seeking help. “Next time, I will make sure I succeed. Even if I changed my mind halfway, I would force myself to succeed.” She would no longer make an attempt outside a hospital.
Asked how her case should have been handled, E said that she wanted to stay at the first hospital for treatment. She asks that the state create more “healing places”, for instance by improving IMH conditions, increasing the staff-patient ratio and creating the sense of people being cared for and deserving some dignity. “At the moment,” she said, “it’s jail.”