The Pacific Women’s Network Against Violence Against Women (PWNAVAW) condemns the recently announced decision of the Government of Papua New Guinea to revive the death penalty and extend it to the offences of rape, robbery and murder.
PNG’s parliament on Tuesday passed laws allowing execution by a range of methods, including hanging, electrocution, lethal injection and firing squad. “This is a gross violation of an individuals right to life as protected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and a direct breach of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of PNG” says Shamima Ali, the Chair of the PWNAVAW.
“While the PWNAVAW welcomes the decision to repeal the Sorcery Act, it is greatly disappointed by the decision of the PNG Government to bring back the death penalty. The death penalty is state sanctioned violence, and is a major setback to the efforts being made by civil society organisations within PNG and the Pacific to promote human rights and eradicate Violence Against Women in PNG.”
The PWNAVAW has provided support to organisations within PNG that have campaigned for the repeal of the Sorcery Act. “While the repeal of the Sorcery Act is a step in the right decision, the revival of the death penalty is a huge step backwards” said Ali. “All violence should be equally abhorrent, whether it is the brutal killing of a woman suspected of sorcery, the brutal rapes and sexual assaults against women or the killing of a person by the state.”
Ali added that the death penalty was not the answer to the ongoing violence against women in PNG. “Research has shown that capital punishment does not deter crime. On the contrary, the death penalty may encourage more violence, as perpetrators may kill their victims to ensure that no evidence can be established against them. Furthermore, state sanctioned violence further de-sensitises people and contributes to the acceptance of vengeance and retribution as legitimate sanctions.”
The PWNAVAW acknowledges that the severity of the problems faced by PNG requires decisive action, but does not consider further violence to be the answer. “The repeal of the sorcery Act is the first step” said Ali. “the Government must now work with civil society to empower women in all areas of life and explore non violent punishment which will actually deter crime, as well as work with men to address the root causes of violence. This problem requires a reasoned and well thought out approach, and not a knee-jerk reaction which will lead to further violence.”