Women Sentenced to Death: An invisible reality

08/10/2021
Press release
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On 10 October 2021, people around the world will mobilize to raise awareness of the death penalty and its impact on women. As we work toward the universal abolition of the death penalty in all countries, for all crimes, this year’s 19th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty [hyperlink to https://worldcoalition.org/campagne/19th-world-day-against-the-death-penalty/] is dedicated to women who risk being sentenced to death, who have received a death sentence, who have been executed, and to those have had their death sentences commuted, exonerated, or pardoned.

The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide estimates that there are at least 800 women sentenced to death around the world, including in Ghana, Japan, the Maldives, Taiwan, Thailand, the USA and Zambia. Of the 483 confirmed executions in 2020, 16 women were executed in Egypt, Iran, Oman and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International’s research.

Discrimination based on sex and gender, often coupled with other elements of identity, such as age, sexual orientation, disability, and race, expose women to intersecting forms of structural inequalities. Such prejudices can weigh heavily on sentencing, including when women are stereotyped as an evil mother, a witch, or a femme fatale. This discrimination can also lead to critical mitigating factors not being considered during arrest and trial, such as being subjected to gender-based violence and abuse.

While working towards the complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes and for all genders, it is crucial to sound the alarm on the discrimination women face and the consequences such discrimination can have on a death sentence.

The death penalty in practice:

• 109 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes
• 8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes
• 28 countries are abolitionist in practice
• 55 countries are retentionist
• 18 countries carried out executions in 2020
• In 2020, the top 5 executioners were China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

In 2020, executions recorded by Amnesty International continued to decrease reaching a new low level in the past 10 years, with the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to the decline.

To read more about the death penalty …

… all over the world:download the facts & figures

… and women: download the leaflet
the detailedfactsheet, the primer on transgender individuals facing the death penalty, and the testimonials.

10 things you can do to end the death penalty:
1 Organize a demonstration This option must be considered with the utmost care given the Covid-19 pandemic – please use common sense and follow local guidelines if you decide to hold a public demonstration
2 Organize an online gathering such as a webinar, remote workshop, conversation, a public debate or even a virtual film screening to create awareness
3 Build partnerships with women’s rights organizations to spread awareness about how gender-bias is present in the application of the death penalty
4 Participate in a TV show or community radio program
5 Organize an interview with a women on death row to help raise awareness of their story
6 Attend events advocating for the abolition of the death penalty (check out the website of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty for information about planned events)
7 Donate to a group working to end the death penalty
8 Follow the social media campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: #nodeathpenalty
9 Mobilize the media to raise awareness on women who are sentenced to death both locally and worldwide
10 Participate in the global movement “Cities Against the Death Penalty/Cities for Life” on 30 November 2021

For more details and ideas, download the mobilization kit

*Important note on the Covid-19 Pandemic:
Since the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has influenced how the abolitionist community is able to advocate and defend the abolition of capital punishment. Thousands of those sentenced to death, along with their families and support networks, are left vulnerable as prison and judiciary systems around the world grapple with the implications of the Covid-19 crisis. It is now more important than ever to stay active and vigilant for abolition of the death penalty! With any activity you undertake this year, please make sure it is compatible with your local and/or national government’s regulations regarding public health and safety. Use good sense in planning activities with the aim of reducing transmission rates. This is particularly important as policies and regulations have been changing to adapt to the Covid-19 threat and may continue to change until 10 October.

Recent FIDH Publications on the Death Penalty

Iran Report:https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/iran/iran-death-penalty-violates-fundamental-rights-and-international-law

Alice / UN Crime Congress: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/death-penalty/at-un-crime-congress-alice-mogwe-shed-light-on-the-path-to-abolishing

South korea open Letter: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/south-korea/open-letter-to-president-moon-jae-in-on-moratorium-on-the-use-of-the

turkey: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/europe-central-asia/turkey/death-penalty-cannot-be-reinstated-in-turkey

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