Today the BBC and other news outlets are reporting that Syria has amended its dishonor killing law. President Bashar al-Assad, son of the Lion of Damascus, decreed that Article 548 of the Syrian penal code be abolished. Article 548 effectively decriminalized dishonor killings by allowing a maximum sentence of just one year for them.
On the surface, this would seem to be good news.
However, some accounts aren't disclosing that the abolished law was replaced by a new minimum sentencing law of two years. Big whoop. So the price of killing females just went from a maximum of one year to a minimum of two. The new law also covers men who "unintentionally" kill their wives, daughters, sisters, or mothers after catching them committing adultery or having unlawful sex. My first thought upon learning that was, really? "Unintentionally" as in, "Oops. I just happened to chase my oldest daughter around the room with a machete after tying an electrical cord around her neck, dousing her in gasoline, and setting fire to her?" Normally, all this is done without any evidence of illicit sex, so the killer is judge, jury, and executioner. No such thing as due process. The new law also covers cases where the woman's lover is killed. Great. Two for the price of one. You could drive an 18 wheeler through those loopholes.
Further, most news accounts haven't bothered to mention that Syria has two additional penal code articles on its books that offer leniency to dishonor killers. Or that other countries that have attempted to strengthen penalties for dishonor killings without also offering improved enforcement and better social support for the at-risk people have seen a suspiciously large increase in female suicide rates. For example, in Pakistan and Turkey, there are now crimes known as "honor" suicides. The males of the family are forcing the females to kill themselves, so that the former can continue to elude justice. Just when you think it can't get any worse. . .
So, while I'm wanting to applaud the apparent baby step of progress in Syria, I just can't. Two years' punishment for taking the life of an innocent person does not represent a serious attempt at reform. In fact, it's insulting that anyone would think that those of us who are paying attention to these things could be so easily hoodwinked.
Causes Ellen Sheeley Supports
For All Women Foundation