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Can you believe that many countries still practise stoning as a form of capital punishment? There are people awaiting this archaic form of punishment as I type!

Stoning (also called lapidation) is a method of execution where people have stones thrown at them until they die. It is an ancient punishment having its roots in many different religions and cultures throughout history. In the Old Testament it’s recommended as a punishment for murder and blasphemy (no Monty Python quotes please, this is serious). The ancient Greeks used it to punish prostitutes, adulterers and murderers. In more recent times stoning has come to be associated with Islam even though it is not mentioned in the Qur’an.

Currently stoning is a LEGAL form of punishment in Afghanistan, Iran (In 2002, the Head of the Judiciary of Iran, Ayatollah Shahroudi, mandated that stoning would no longer be practised in Iran. However the laws were never officially removed from the penal code and it is still being practised.), Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

And what crime is so heinous that it warrants stoning in these countries? In the large majority of cases it’s ‘adultery of married persons’ (zina al-Mohsena). Both men and women are punished in this way for this ‘crime’. But of course in reality women are the main victims. For example, there are currently 10 people awaiting stoning in Iran, nine of these are women! Why is this? The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women puts the reason as the result of misogynist and discriminatory laws. It is easier for a man to get out of a marriage than a woman.

As with all capital punishment there is always the problem of false conviction. What if the evidence is later found to be flawed and the accused was actually innocent the whole time? Too late, they’ve already been bludgeoned to death! In cases of adultery this is all too common as the ‘proof’ is witness testimony. Of course witnesses can have their own agendas such as revenge, jealousy etc. Or perhaps they just remembered things slightly wrong! Witnesses are not reliable! Memory is not reliable! There’s also the fact that in many of these countries the Judge can ignore all witnesses and just go with his gut feeling about the case! How can that possibly count as a fair trial?

All capital punishment is wrong. This form of capital punishment in particular is deliberately designed to cause the most suffering in the victim and strike the most fear in the people watching. Stoning is a violation of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (1966). Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Sudan are all party signatories of this.

Article 7 of the ICCPR states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. I think being half buried in the ground and then having small rocks thrown at you until you suffer enough injury to pass out and then die counts as all the above. This is a very slow and painful way to die.

Article 6 says that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes”. Adultery is NOT a serious crime!

In many cultures it is seen as a crime, this is true. But that is no excuse for such a harsh punishment. As The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women sums up:

No ‘culture’ has the right to kill and harm women based on their perceptions of morality or honour. The freedom of belief does not mean freedom to kill. Stoning is a brutal example of how culture and religion are being misused to perpetuate violence against women. (http://stop-stoning.org/faq_stoning)

I encourage anyone reading this to stand up for people’s rights and go read more about the mentioned campaign. Or go to Amnesty International and petition the various involved governments to abolish stoning!

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