Nearly seventy years after the adoption of the Syrian Penal Code issued by Legislative Decree No. (148) of (1949), and on March 12, 2020, four days after the world celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, Law No. (2) was issued in The Syrian Arab Republic to repeal Article (548) of the Syrian Penal Code, so that the Syrian woman, after a long struggle, regains the right to protect her life, by abolishing the mitigating excuse for the perpetrator of the so-called (honour crime).
The honor crime, by definition, is a murder committed exclusively by a male in a family, against one or more females of the same family, based on suspicions that the female may have committed an act that violates the morals of the offender, or the offender may believe that these acts constitute a violation of his community or religion.
The reasons for killing women differ from one person to another, or from one society to another (such as divorce, refusal to marry, or having an unapproved relationship, or even a crime of honor may be committed against a female who has been raped) all under the cloak and jacket called preserving honor and washing away shame.
Article 548 went a long way, and often on two parallel lines.” The first is a legal line, as the text of Article 548 in the Penal Code when it was issued in 1949 stipulates the following: “The one who surprised his wife, or one of his ascendants or descendants benefits from a local excuse.” Or his sister in flagrante delicto, or in indecent sexual relations with another person, and he proceeded to kill them, or harm them, or unintentionally kill or harm one of them.” That is, the murderer is finally exempted from punishment.
This exemption from punishment remained in force until Article 548 was amended in 2009 by Legislative Decree No. (37), whereby the offender now benefits from a mitigating excuse instead of the legal one, making the minimum sentence two years imprisonment, after he had previously been exempt from punishment.
In 2011, Legislative Decree No. (1) was issued, which amended several articles of the Syrian Penal Code, including Article 548, to set the penalty for the killer from five to seven years in prison.
Finally, this article was permanently abolished by Law No. (2) of 2020, and there is no longer any mitigating excuse or justification for the perpetrator of the so-called (honour crime) against women, and this law is a first step to achieving equality between men and women and for women’s equity. There is no exception that protects men. in the murder.
As for the second line, it was the march of the Syrian feminist struggle, which began its activities a long time ago. It may have preceded the issuance of the Penal Code in 1949. Among the prominent stations in this struggle, for example, but not limited to, the campaign (No to killing women .. No to honor killings) In 2005 with the Syrian Women’s Observatory, and also with the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs in the National Forum in 2008. In 2009, the International Day of Honor Crimes was adopted on October 29 of each year, all with the aim of supporting women to eliminate so-called honor killings.
The abolition of Article 548 is consistent with the Syrian Constitution, and with international conventions. We find that Article 33 of the 2012 Syrian Constitution stipulates equality between all citizens in rights and duties, and that there is no difference between them because of gender, language, religion, or creed. . In line with this article, it is assumed that any legislative text that provides for the punishment of women and the permissibility of men constitutes a constitutional violation, which was previously established in Article 548 of the Penal Code. Therefore, Law No. 2 of 2020 is considered the beginning of positive change in line with the constitution, and in line with international conventions. and the Convention against All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
From theory to practice
The Syrian constitution is consistent with the CEDAW agreement, as it stipulates equality despite the Syrian reservations to some articles of the agreement. However, the Syrian laws are still limited and not deep in the application of the provisions of the agreement. Discrimination against women is still enshrined in the Syrian Penal Code, and other laws such as nationality Divorce, and inheritance.
Is the application of equality in the right to live in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the abolition of Article 548, the first degree of equality of women with men in all rights, taking into account that women are equal to men in duties, completely opposite in rights only because they are female?