Jonathan Wynne-Jones, London Telegraph, February 2, 2008
Whole communities are involved in assisting and covering up “honour violence” in Britain, a new study says.
Informal networks of taxi drivers, councillors and sometimes even police officers track down and return women who try to escape, researchers claim.
A report by the Centre for Social Cohesion—an offshoot of the right-wing think-tank Civitas, whose advisors include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and the Labour backbencher Frank Field—alleges that the problem exists in the country’s Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities, even among second-generation immigrants.
Women have been raped, abused and even killed for forming “inappropriate” relationships or merely for wanting to go to university. The report found that:
o Women may be attacked for nothing more than listening to western music
o Families have imported brides to work in prostitution
o Local authorities are not acting because of “political correctness” and a fear of being accused of racism.
Many South Asian men brought up in this country want to marry uneducated women, known as “freshies”, who are “uncontaminated” by ideas of female independence, the report, published tomorrow says.
It comes days after Vernon Coaker, a Home Office minister, disclosed that the Government’s forced marriage unit dealt with 400 cases last year.
Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for Keighley, welcomed the findings. “In most communities people will condemn domestic violence, but in Asian communities, the religious and secular leaders are either turning a blind eye or actually condoning it,” she said.
Nazir Afzal, the lead on honour-based violence for the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the problem was particularly acute in areas where Islamic extremist groups were active.
He said that the problem was so deeply buried in these communities that the police were having to resort to unusual tactics to tackle it.
“We are now using techniques usually used to fight organised crime to tackle this. We’re using covert officers, listening devices and other methods,” he said.
Following the murder of Banaz Mahmod, a Kurdish woman who had pleaded with police to protect her against her family in south London, Mr Afzal said that “substantial numbers of the community actually did not assist and support prosecutors. Instead they supported the family members who were responsible for the killing”.
He said: “In some northern towns there are real horror stories—from places like Blackburn where people say that you might as well be in rural Kashmir for all the way that women are seen and treated.”
One woman every month is the victim of an “honour” killing, the CPS says.
“This has been a silent and invisible practice for too long,” says Shahien Taj, the director of the Henna Foundation, a women’s group based in Cardiff.
Teachers, police and councils are afraid to take action against so-called honour crimes for fear of being accused of racism, it is claimed.
Women are also being betrayed by community figures who believe those who break traditional taboos deserve to be punished, the report found.
Researchers say taxi drivers, police and government workers of Asian origin are returning women to the domestic abuse they want to escape.
The report by the Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank voices the concerns of activists who say they are seeing more women fleeing “honour-based” violence.
But lack of funding means shelters have been forced to turn victims away.
The Crown Prosecution Service says about 12 women are victims of honour killings in the UK each year.
The researchers fear the real figure is much higher.
The study found that honour crimes are being carried out by third and fourth generation immigrants.
It also says there is evidence that Asian policemen and councillors try to block the activities of women’s groups.
“The Government is still not taking honour crime seriously,” said James Brandon, one of the report’s authors.
“Until this happens, the ideas of honour which perpetuate this violence will continue to be passed from generation to generation.”
The report says women have been attacked for forming “inappropriate” relationships, wanting to go to university or listening to Western music.
It found that “political correctness” was preventing bodies from tackling crimes which exist in the country’s Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities.
The authors said families withdraw teenage daughters from school because they fear men will be unwilling to marry them if they are educated.
Many men brought up here want “freshies”—women “uncontaminated” by ideas of independence.
Rahni Binjie of the Roshni Asian Women’s Aid, a refuge in Nottingham, said: “We’ve had women who have disappeared from the education system. We don’t know if they’ve been taken abroad or killed or anything.”
Activists say there are particular problems with taxi firms who return women fleeing from abuse.
Jasvinder Sanghera, of the Karma Nirvana refuge in Derby, said: “We just can’t trust them. This can be a matter of life and death for these girls.”
Honour cases include that of Surjit Kaur Athwal, a Sikh lured to India and killed on the orders of her husband and mother-in-law.
Bachan Athwal and her son Sukhdave, 43, ordered the honour ‘killing’ of the 27-year-old Customs officer at Heathrow after she had an affair and started divorce proceedings. They were jailed in
The young Sikh woman vanished after going to a family wedding in India in December 1998. It is believed the grandmother’s brother Darshan strangled her in the Punjab before throwing her in a river. Her body has never been found.