Syria - The Penal Code - Equality Now

Syria - The Penal Code

  • Country: Syria
  • Law status: Repealed
  • Law Type: Honor Killings

Article 548 (amended in 2009 and 2011) of Syria’s Penal Code allows for a lesser punishment, capped at 7 years’ imprisonment, for men who kill their wives, sisters, mothers or daughters on finding them engaging in an “illegitimate” sexual act. The normal punishment for murder is hard labor for 20 years.

Article 548.  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.

Link to full law

Note: The Permanent Mission of Syria to the United Nations has informed Equality Now that the below provision was repealed in March 2020.

In 2009 Syria amended Article 548, which previously exempted men who killed their female relatives for ‘honor’ from punishment. This amended law, rather than treating “honor” killings as any other murder, merely imposes a minimum two year prison sentence. In 2011 Syria again amended Article 548, which previously imposed a minimum two year prison sentence, to raise the minimum sentence to five years but placed a ceiling of seven years maximum. The punishment for murder is hard labor for 20 years.

Article 23 of the Constitution of Syria: The state guarantees women all opportunities enabling them to fully and effectively participate in the political, social, cultural, and economic life. The state shall work on removing the restrictions that prevent women's development and participation in building society.

Sex discrimination in laws purporting to address violence, or silence on the issue within the law, can actually promote or perpetuate violence against women and girls because there is little to deter perpetrators from committing crimes or inadequate recourse for victims; intimate partner and sexual violence is disproportionately inflicted upon women and adolescent girls.

Laws that prescribe lesser punishments for so-called “honor” killings can lead to impunity for crimes against women, and actually promote or perpetuate such violence.