The Death Penalty Is Not The Solution To Violence Against Women



The horrific death of 19-year old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, is for many South Africans the cruel combination of unsurprising and heart-breaking. It is perhaps the everyday of the post office that has pushed many over the edge, into action. One prominent response on social media is a call for the return of the death penalty for perpetrators of violence against women. Capital punishment seems the only response compatible with our anger, fitting for the horror. But it is not the solution we need. By DR CHRISTINE HOBDEN.

The death penalty offers only a temporary consolation to our anger while continuing to buy into a societal culture of violence and disregard for the value of a human life. It is also notoriously unsuccessful as a deterrent and expensive to implement. Calling for the death penalty chooses a solution that is far removed from us as citizens, and right at the end of a long judicial process. Our response needs to include ourselves, and to push for changes throughout our institutions.

We need to call on our government to implement not the death penalty but a comprehensive strategy to ensure safe reporting and supported court procedures that do not victim-blame or re-traumatize complainants. We need not harsher sentences, but effective policing that prevents gender-based violence; women need to be able to trust the efficacy of a protection order and their safety in government institutions like police stations and post offices.  

So yes, as citizens we should direct our attention to holding our government accountable to do better, much better. But we should also direct some reform in our own direction. How do we meaningfully change a norm of men feeling entitled to women’s bodies and lives? Patriarchy is persistent and pernicious. If you feel motivated to act today, join the resistance to patriarchy in all its forms. Deny rape culture its grip: speak out against every rape joke, every comment that objectifies a women, every comment that perpetuates toxic masculinity, every one. 

It is an unglamorous struggle in its relentlessness and seeming smallness. Just like trying hold government accountable, alone it can feel pointless. The key is to keep focused on what we as citizens can achieve together: accountability and norm-shifting are tasks for the collective, and we each need to do our bit, best we can, according to our context, resources, and ability. 

Dr Christine Hobden is a lecturer in the department of philosophy, University of Fort Hare.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.

Featured image by Nyiko Shikwambane


  1. The reason we are suggesting the death penalty is because ALL the solutions you have mentioned are not new. We have been talking about them however there has not been any change. Hence our last resort is the death penalty, because once the perpetrator is removed from society permanently there wont be a chance that he does the same thing again. A life that does not value another life is not worth it. A life for a life makes South Africa safer.

  2. So, we are not allowed to be WOMAN anymore????? we are not allowed to do our hair, paint our nails, wear high heels because a MAN will want to stick it in???? and force his way in???? NO TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!!!! WE WILL RETALIATE AND TAKE MATTERS INTO OUR OWN HANDS

  3. Doctor, just like the 3 fellow individuals who have placed a comment in this section – I disagree with you. We need the death penalty because our sisters are dying and the scourge of femicide cuts through colour lines. In my honest opinion, I feel that if you are a citizen who is over 55 this is not your fight anymore. The death sentence and capital punishment were used unjustly under the rule of apartheid – but for the life of me, in today’s society, our fight to is get rid of the beast that is femicide. Talking, debates, blogs, monologues, value chain assessment, strategy, hashtags – these “soft” courses of action have yielded no improvement. To my fellow youth, this is our fight. We will stop femicide. Let us not compare the abolishment of capital punishment in Europe and America as a means to serve why we as South Africa should not consider the death penalty again. In Saudi Arabia, India capital punishment still exists. We must stop gender-based violence.


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