Article 548 of Syria’s Penal Code had previously allowed for a complete “exemption of penalty” for the killing of female family members who had been found committing “illegitimate sex acts”, and for the murder of wives having extramarital affairs.
On 1 June, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced this Article with one reading: “He who catches his wife, sister, mother or daughter by surprise, engaging in an illegitimate sexual act and kills or injures them unintentionally must serve a minimum of two years in prison.”
Syrian Women Observatory, an independent Syrian website for women’s rights, estimates there are nearly 200 honour killings there a year. The UNFPA estimates that as many as 5000 women and girls are victims of honour killings each year worldwide.
Human rights activists welcome Syria’s move to enforce a minimum jail sentence for honour killers as better than nothing, but are asking that the Syrian government go further and treat all murderers alike – no exceptions.