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 Even if Section 309 is not immediately repealed, the CPC should be amended so that it is non-seizable and does not trigger mandatory reporting.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.
B is 28 years old. In September 2015, she attempted suicide after being raped by a colleague’s fiancé and arguing with her boyfriend shortly afterward.
At 5pm that day, she was arrested and brought to the holding area of a police station where she was cuffed to a wall from 6.30pm till after midnight. She had no water and could not go to the toilet. She did not tell the police about the rape because she was afraid to talk about it and concerned about confidentiality.
As one police officer (a woman) took B’s fingerprints, a second officer (a man) kept offering to take over. The two officers laughed and joked with each other about B’s profession (a profession stereotypically associated with attractive women). The male officer said to B, “Next time if you want to kill yourself, call me. We can go drink.”
The female officer asked B questions about the suicide attempt, but it was not clear whether they were out of curiosity or an attempt at investigation. B has reported, “I felt that I am being treated as a criminal.”
B was brought to lock up, where she saw that another woman was not given water when she asked for it. B slept and was awoken once by a police officer who stared at her and then walked away. She believed that other officers were discussing her, and this man had come to look at her out of interest. In the morning, more officers came, called loudly to her from the corridor, and laughed. B felt they were “mocking” her.
“I felt I am like an animal in the cage of a zoo.” B was escorted to IMH around 2pm. In the waiting room, she heard police officers discussing her and another case, both described as “309”. The police officers spoke in Chinese so B could not understand them, but she heard them say “boyfriend” several times. She also heard them joking (in English) about another arrested woman, whom they called “fat”.
“I felt all the police are so curious and mocking all the time. And I feel like there is no confidentiality at all… With all these experiences, I felt no support and I was treated like a criminal.”