Yes, a righteous government would implement the death penalty for those tried and convicted of adultery. We all know normal people who have unfortunately committed this grievous sin, and of course we wouldn’t want them to die for it. If we were to somehow vote in a law making adultery illegal, it would not be retroactive–it would be the law going forward, and adultery rates would plummet and so would divorce rates. Think about it, though. Do you really think as many people commit adultery in societies where it is punishable by death? Of course not…so you can relax about your Aunt Trudy who cheated on her husband thirty years ago. If Aunt Trudy had lived in a society that enforced the death penalty for adultery, chances are she would never have committed that sin in the first place.
The UN has issued numerous calls to governments to repeal laws that criminalise adultery, arguing that they are predominantly used to discriminate against women. “Provisions in penal codes often do not treat women and men equally and establish harsher rules and sanctions for women,” writes human rights expert Frances Raday.
Countries governed by Islamic law, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Somalia, all strictly prohibit “zina”, or “fornication outside marriage”. Prosecutions are common and punishment can include fines, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, flogging and in extreme cases, the death penalty. Women are overwhelmingly targeted.
Human rights organisations argue that in several Muslim nations, adultery laws are often used against women who have been raped. Under such legislation, the burden of proof is on the woman to provide evidence that she was raped, or be prosecuted for adultery.
In countries where adultery is still a capital crime, it’s not an everyday occurrence and usually ends up in the news. Just as capital punishment is a strong deterrent against murder, it has the same effect on other crimes.
Telling us that we would not want people we know and care about to be put to death is a straw man argument. We don’t want our friends and family to be convicted of murder either, but they probably won’t kill anyone, so we don’t worry about it. When the children of Israel committed adultery, they knew the risk going in.