A passionate announcement by youth leaders of the Popular Movement for Democracy (PDM) calling for the introduction of the death penalty for perpetrators of gender-based violence, rape and human trafficking is grossly misguided. The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime and does nothing to address the underlying causes of why these crimes occur.

Rather than calling for the death penalty, the PDM YL should demand that the public give evidence in court. They should insist that specific cultural beliefs and traditional practices that demean women be eliminated. They should demand state financing for support for rape victims. It is difficult to handle the stress of a court appearance and manage the psychological impacts of the violence done to them.

Any call for the death penalty must be accompanied by research. The youth leaders may have only wished to grab headlines and used such extreme language to make their point.

The death penalty is not a political ping-pong ball or statement for shock value; it is life and death.

State-sponsored murder is illegal in Namibia and is never a viable option to punish crime or stop criminals. International civil liberties and human rights organizations have stated very clearly that, “capital punishment violates civil liberties and is inconsistent with the any democratic system. The death penalty is uncivilized, unfair and inequitable. Evidence from around the world has shown that the death penalty has no unique deterrent effect on crime.”

Who gets the death penalty is largely dependent on how much money they have and the skill of their attorneys. Rape convicted rich or ‘connected’ people who can afford top attorneys will not die in the PDM Youth League’s vision of the death penalty. Only poor, uneducated, possibly mentally ill, marginalized people would die by the state’s decree.

The death penalty can never be applied evenly and fairly in all cases. No human being is consistently and flawlessly wise, fair, or objective enough to decide who dies and who doesn’t. Mistakes will be made. People not guilty of the crime will be killed.

In the USA there were over 150 people sentenced to death who were later found to be innocent. DNA tests that were not discovered when they were convicted, were finally used. These men were subsequently cleared. This is scary – there is no second chance to correct a death penalty error.

Namibia is notorious for institutional inefficiency. Our processes are lax and inconsistent. We have questionable training of officials, no institutional memory and a non-reading culture. Is our criminal justice system competent to put people to death? We think not.

People demanding the death penalty have no idea about how to deal with crime or rehabilitate criminals. They use the death penalty to mask their own failure to identify and confront the true causes of crime. What is causing the horrific rise in reports of rapes, incest and sexual assault in Namibia? That should have captured the ire of the PDM youth.

Criminals do not consider the punishment they may face if caught. They do the crime more worried about getting away with it. The father that raped his daughter at his sister’s house was not thinking about punishment if he gets caught. He didn’t believe he would be caught.

There is a reason that the Namibian constitution does not allow the death penalty. People who do not read and understand history are condemned to forget. The death penalty will always be used by those in power to eliminate those who oppose them. Human beings are capricious, inherently biased, and prejudiced. The death penalty would be applied using the same flaws.

Did the youth consider the logistics and massive costs of the implementation of the death penalty?

There are different ways that states legally kill people. Shall we reinstate firing squads, use electric chairs, lethal injections, or the gallows? Maybe the advocates of the death penalty should stone them death?

We encourage the PDM youth of Khomas region to obtain information about serious topics before throwing them out in the heat of passion. We embrace their rage over rape. We have the same rage. But, the issue for debate must be how to stop sexual assault and how to promote healing for the victims. There is no room to call for a death penalty.

See aclu.org, amnesty.org and theconversation.com for full articles on the issues quoted above.

Youthful passion about political issues is must be encouraged. But, it is irresponsible to take public positions without understanding all sides of what is being asked. The death penalty must be eliminated everywhere; it solves nothing. Reinstituting it in Namibia must never be a consideration.