A petition, started on Change.org by user Agent Of Change last week, has so far garnered more than 580 000 signatures.
Judge Navi Pillay, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said important policies should not be made while emotions ran high.
“When things like this happen, people get upset and start making dangerous and outrageous calls. The same calls were made in India when women were raped on a bus
“The thing about the death penalty is that it is morally wrong. People are calling for a perpetrator to be killed because they killed another human being It’s inhumane and degrading.”
Pillay, the president of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, said implementing the death penalty would not reduce the number of violent crimes committed against women and children.
She said countries like the US had the death penalty, but in a few instances, DNA evidence had later proved that the perpetrator was in fact innocent of the crime for which they were put to death.
“Countries like the Middle East and the US have the death penalty, but the crime has not reduced. It won’t reduce here, either, if it’s implemented.”
She said South Africans should instead focus on protecting women.
“Hold meetings with street committees and ward committees. Ask men to be more alert when women are walking alone. Call for every street to be brightly lit, so women can walk at night without fear of the dark. Find sponsors to hand out aids, like tasers and pepper spray, to vulnerable women. Empower our women instead of scaring them.”
Judge Thumba Pillay said the death penalty was “unconstitutional”.
“And quite frankly, I do not believe anyone will look at reintroducing it. No human being has the power to choose between life and death. Also, passing a death sentence is irreversible. It’s so final - we cannot act like God.”
He said he doubted he would have accepted a seat on the Bench if he had to decide who lived or died.
“It would be against my conscience. Instead of calling for such a permanent punishment, people should call for stricter punishment. Maybe ask for laws to be tightened - call for life imprisonment for the perpetrator, rather than end a life.”