'Death penalty depicts women as weaker sex'

HARARE - The draft constitution’s stance on the death penalty patronises women and depicts them as a weaker sex, civil society has said.

Speaking at the commemorations of the European and World Day against the Death Penalty in the capital yesterday, Amnesty International Zimbabwe (Amnesty) and Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (Zacro) slammed government for exhibiting confusion, and openly violating gender equality stipulations in the draft constitution.

“In reality, the element of equality does not exist in the draft, as indicated by the gender divide it imposes in regard to the death penalty.

“It is merely a statement against equality,” said Tsitsi Choruma, from charity group Oxfam GB, who spoke as the women’s representative.

Choruma said women were being fed “mirage propaganda” in an environment where equality was only theoretical.

Zimbabwe’s draft constitution abolishes the death sentence for women and those under the age of 21 and above 70 years.

Rights groups pushing for the total removal of the death penalty, including Amnesty say the charter, which will be adopted if approved in a referendum latter this year-falls short on treating women as equals.

Zacro programmes director Elisha Chidombwe said the death penalty must be eliminated totally, saying the gender-based elimination was ineffective.

“Killing is revenge and government cannot legalise revenge, apart from the fact that executions have not been carried out in the last seven years,” said Chidombwe.

“In the case of any miscarriage of justice, from which no legal system is immune, it represents a terrible and irreversible loss of human life. The death penalty can neither reverse the crime it seeks to punish nor mitigate a victim’s loss. It should be a relic of the past.”

The United Nations has called on all countries to support a resolution on a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty which will be put to a vote at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly in December.

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