Honour crime in the UK
From Stop Honour
Samaira Nazir rejected Pakistani
suitors chosen by her family and planned to elope with her Afghan
boyfriend. The penalty for her defiance: death from 18 stab wounds
inflicted by her brother and cousin at the family home in Southall,
More than a dozen women are killed for violating community standards
each year in the UK, according to police. While Nazir's killers were
jailed for life.
There is a kid-gloves approach on the basis that you don't want to
offend these communities, says Usha Sood, a lawyer and lecturer at
Nottingham Trent University who specializes in forced marriage cases.
If you take into account the whole range of honor offenses, the number
runs into the thousands.'
Combating honor violence is one element of the UK's struggle to
assimilate its 1.6 million Muslims. Prime Minister Tony Blair recognized
the clash of cultures during a Dec. 8 speech to educators in London
titled "The Duty to Integrate.'': There can be no defense of forced
marriage on cultural or any other grounds. We stand emphatically at all
times for equality of respect and treatment for all citizens. Sometimes
the cultural practice of one group contradicts this.'
Police are struggling to identify honor crimes because family members
and neighbors often regard them as just punishment. Victims are often
targeted because of sexual orientation or for relationships with
Steve Allen, a commander with London's Metropolitan Police who's charged
with combating honor crimes, says UK law enforcement is tackling the
issue. Beginning this year, Scotland Yard computers will register
honor-based violence as a separate category of crime for the first time.
Allen says police were slow to
recognize the problem. As an officer in the ethnically diverse city of
Bristol in the 1990s, Allen says honor crime just wasn't on our
Growing awareness of honor killings prompted Scotland Yard to establish
a task force in 2004 to re-examine 109 homicides over the previous
decade to determine how many were honor-based.
So far, 22 cases have been analyzed and 18 have been classified as
either "definite'' or "suspected'' honor killings, says a spokeswoman
for the Metropolitan Police who asked not to be identified, citing
department policy. The probe doesn't have a time limit.
The true impact of honor violence can't be measured by crime statistics
alone, says Veena Raleigh, who teaches epidemiology and public health at
the University of Surrey in Guilford, England. In Britain, the suicide
rate among first-generation Asian women, aged 15 to 24, is more than
twice the national average of 5.4 per 100,000 women, according to her
research: The evidence suggests that these women found themselves
trapped by social factors and not feeling there was an escape for them.
Sometimes violence stems from the desire to keep women isolated from the
Girls are being beaten up for
things like having a mobile phone, says Sanghera, who runs the Karma
Nirvana shelter for women in Derby, England. The group deals with seven
forced marriages a week, and about four cases each month of people under
the threat of murder, she says.
There are about 300 safe houses for abused women in the UK, though many
have only a handful of beds, says Diana Nammi, director of the
International Campaign Against Honour Killings, a London-based group
that represents victims. Her group counseled 186 people last year, and
14 of them were sent to the police because they were deemed in danger of
being murdered, she says. Two men were included in the high-risk group.
Last year the Blair government established an agency to offer help to UK
citizens whose parents are trying to compel them to marry partners from
overseas. The Forced Marriage Unit's six officers deal with 250 to 300
cases each year. About 15% of the cases are initiated by men and
two-thirds come from Britain's Pakistani community, says Peter Abbott,
head of the unit, which is part of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Still, Blair's government in June dropped a proposal to ban forced
marriage in the UK. Patricia Scotland, a Home Office minister in the
House of Lords, said such a law could drive the practice further
underground. A Labour member of Parliament, Ann Cryer, is now gathering
support for new legislation.
In the UK, the minimum age for foreign spouses and Britons seeking to
sponsor them for entry to the country is 18. Cryer has been campaigning
to raise the minimum age for both bride and groom to 21.
When I came here in 1996 I thought honor killings only happened in
other countries, says Nammi, a Kurd who was born in Iran and also
lived in Iraq. I thought that with the better education and more
freedom here, it wouldn't be a problem, but soon after I came here I
found honor killings happening here.