Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree last week that increased the penalty for honor killing to a minimum prison sentence of two years. The law previously limited the maximum sentence to one year. According to the BBC, activists believe about 200 women are the victims of honor killings every year, murdered by male family members who suspect them of committing adultery. In a statement to a Syrian news agency, Justice Minister Ahmad Hamoud Younes said, “The number of wife killing has increased recently on the pretext of adultery, and the canceled article number 548 of the penal law pardoned those crimes.”
The new law reads, “He who catches his wife, sister, daughter, or mother by surprise in the act of committing adultery or having unlawful sex with another and then unintentionally kills or hurts either of them can benefit from attenuating circumstances, provided that he serves a prison term of no less than two years in the case of killing.”
Women’s rights groups in Syria are acknowledging the new law as a small step in the right direction, while maintaining that it does little to discourage honor killing. The group Women of Syria released a statement saying, “This is only a small contribution to solving this problem, for in this new version too the paragraph (law) still invites murder,” according to the Deutsche Presse Agentur.