Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate

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Appeals from rights groups dismissed as another drug convict awaits execution on August 3.

Singapore made headlines on Friday as it executed a 45-year-old female citizen for drug trafficking, marking the city-state's first execution of a woman in nearly 20 years. Despite appeals from human rights organizations, the capital punishment was carried out, sparking debates over the efficacy and morality of such measures in deterring crime.

The Central Narcotics Bureau confirmed the execution of Saridewi Binte Djamani, who was found guilty of trafficking "not less than 30.72 grammes" of heroin, an amount exceeding the threshold that merits the death penalty in Singapore. Djamani's sentencing took place in 2018, and despite her appeal and plea for presidential clemency, her conviction and sentence were upheld, culminating in her execution on July 28, 2023.

The case has drawn attention to Singapore's stringent anti-drug laws, which impose the death penalty for trafficking over 500 grammes of cannabis or 15 grammes of heroin. The city-state resumed executions in March 2022 after a two-year hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Djamani becoming the 15th prisoner to be executed since then.

Djamani's execution marks the first time a woman has faced capital punishment in Singapore since 2004 when Yen May Woen, a Singaporean national, was hanged for drug trafficking.

The use of the death penalty has faced mounting criticism from international rights groups, including Amnesty International, who argue that there is no concrete evidence to support its effectiveness as a crime deterrent. Despite these pleas, Singapore remains steadfast in its stance, moving forward with the execution of another drug convict scheduled for August 3.

Kirsten Han, a Singaporean rights activist, expressed concern about the ongoing executions, stating, "This is the fourth execution this year, and there will be another one next week. It's horrible for the families and worrying for other death row inmates." She also highlighted that the number of women on death row in Singapore is relatively uncommon, and there is no clear reason for the gender disparity.

The recent execution prompted billionaire Richard Branson to intervene, urging the Singaporean government to "grant mercy" to Djamani and reconsider the use of capital punishment.