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Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

Ending the silence on ‘honour killing’

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

The number of young women – and men – being killed or assaulted after supposedly bringing shame on their families keeps on rising. But more than ever before, those who have escaped violence are speaking out to break the code of silence. Old attitudes of accepting the crimes in the name of cultural sensitivity have also disappeared and the police are targeting the abusers

Zena had been following a murder trial in London with an interest verging on obsession.”I really wanted to go to court myself but I can never risk going to the city and being seen by someone,” she said.

“But I feel such a bond with other women who may have been through what I went through, even though you never meet these girls; you just hear about them when these ‘honour killing’ trials come up. I wish I could get involved with the support groups and help but you know, I’m just a coward.”

Having first walked out of an abusive marriage at the age of 17 and then from a hostile family who had had a meeting to discuss whether or not she should die, Zena does not lack courage but she is still very scared.

She has every reason to be. Her Bangladeshi-born mother had suggested that Zena might be allowed to poison herself rather than be murdered for bringing shame on the family. Zena, born in England, is second-generation British Asian and her accent betrays where she was brought up although it is far from where she lives now.

“I’m sorry to be so cloak-and-dagger but you never know what they might be capable of, I know there are plenty of young men who would love to play bounty hunter just for a bit of kudos in the community.”

Another court case six years ago had shocked Zena into climbing out of the window of her locked bedroom and leaving home with £46 and a change of clothes, an impulsive act she believes saved her life.

It was the story of Heshu Yones, 16, from Acton, west London, who was stabbed 11 times and then had her throat cut by her father who said he had to kill her because other men in his circle of Kurdish friends thought she had a boyfriend and his honour was shamed. Abdalla Yones was convicted of murder and jailed for life in 2003.

“A family member told me that there had been a meeting about killing me but it was seeing that case in the paper that made it real,” said Zena. The threat to women in this country from such violence is very real and the list of names of girls and women killed in the name of “honour” is growing.

Police estimate at least 12 are dying each year in the UK but others will be hidden – forced suicides and murders made to look like suicide are widely believed to take place undetected. Women aged 16-24 from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds are three times more likely to kill themselves than the national average for that age and it is impossible to tell what pressures some must have been under. And for every woman who dies, it seems certain that there are many, many more living with honour-based abuse and hidden away in shuttered communities.

Support groups are springing up. The Henna Foundation is based in Cardiff and Jasvinder Sanghera, who fled a forced marriage and made a new life for herself, set up a charity called Karma Nirvana in Derby after her sister Robina killed herself to escape the misery of her loveless marriage.

When it opened its helpline in April 2008, Karma Nirvana received 4,000 calls in the first year and is now taking 300 calls a month from people under threat of honour-based violence, often linked to forced marriage.

After the government’s forced marriage unit was set up in April last year, it received 5,000 calls and rescued 400 victims in the first six months.

Sanghera believes about 3% of women manage to escape forced marriage in the UK and when they leave they have to live with fear and rejection of not only their families but also their communities and sometimes their friends.

They also face being hunted down, said Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell of the Metropolitan police. “It’s not uncommon to have bounty hunters out hunting down young people who have left forced marriages or fled from a family where they are at risk. It’s rare for [one person] to take unilateral action, it’s all done in consultation and there is logistical support and collusion in the extended community,” he said.

Campbell, head of the Met’s violent crime directorate, has led a number of investigations into honour-based violence and hate crimes. He believes the Met has learned some tough lessons from tragedies such as that of Banaz Mahmod, who made contact with police five times to say she thought her life was in danger but always drew back from pressing charges. Banaz, 19, a Kurd, was murdered by family members at her home in Mitcham, Surrey, in 2006.

She had been raped and beaten by the older man she had been forced to marry, and had left him. Her elder sister, Bekhal, had also left home to escape their father’s violence and the extended family was beginning to regard Mahmod Mahmod as a man who had lost control of his daughters. The shame became so unbearable that he held a meeting to discuss killing his daughter and her new boyfriend.

“We have had previous investigations where mistakes have been made but we at the Met have improved the frontline training for our officers and been quite clear around the issues with community groups that we’re working with too,” said Campbell. “I’m confident that no victim will ever be turned away in London and that officers know that to do nothing is not an option.

“Honour is about a collection of practices used by the family to control behaviour, to prevent perceived shame, but there’s no honour in murder, rape, or kidnapping and with 25% of the [cases] we are seeing involving a person under 18: this is a child abuse issue too. The simple message is: If you do this you will be caught and brought to justice.

“Young woman are predominately the victims of honour-based violence but we are seeing an increase in young men and boys – it’s now about 15% of the total numbers,” he said.

“Honour-based violence is complicated and a sensitive crime to investigate. It’s fathers, brothers, uncles, mums and cousins and the victim, or potential victim, has a fear of criminalising or demonising their family so they can be reluctant to come forward.”

He said that in many cases it was not new immigrants but third or fourth generation families where the worst problems lay. “People who actually are hanging on to traditions that in the country of origin have gone, things have moved on back home but they don’t know that.

“We don’t know how many victims are out there suffering in silence but as an example in the financial year of 2008-9 we had 132 forced marriage and honour-based violence offences reported to us. From April to the end of September this year we have had 129 cases so it’s rising all the time. We’ve been learning about this for 10 years and have been really galvanised over the past four years so while we are not complacent we have come on leaps and bounds.

“This crime genre transcends every nationality, religious faith or group, nor is it unique to the UK, every country in the world has honour-based violence. But we want to make it clear that people can come forward to us; they will be believed.”

Things have undoubtedly improved since the cases that campaigners see as the low points in the fight against honour killings, such as the sentence of six-and-a-half years handed down to Shabir Hussain who in 1995 deliberately drove over and crushed to death his cousin and sister-in-law, Tasleem Begum, 20. The acceptance of a plea of manslaughter through “provocation” by the court was widely attacked by women’s groups. Tasleem was killed because she had fallen in love with a married man she worked with.

Roger Keene, QC, prosecuting, told the court: “The family as a whole, including the defendant, had been distressed for some time about the behaviour of the deceased.”

The behaviour of women seen to have dishonoured their families can be as harmless as wearing make-up or talking to boys. One suspected murder is believed to have been caused by a girl having a love song dedicated to her on a community radio show.

Diana Nammi, who runs the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in London, has been working to encourage more women to seek help when they are in danger. “The number of women that we know of and hear about and the cases dealt with in court is really just a handful of the full picture,” she said. “But even one case is too many. For someone to be killed for their make-up or clothes or having a boyfriend or for refusing to accept a forced marriage is so brutal and unacceptable.

“A few years ago when Heshu Yones was killed it was silent, but her sister gave evidence against her father and that was a turning point. Those same communities who were silent seven years ago when Banaz was killed, when people were aware she was in danger and did nothing, they are not happy to stay quiet any more, this silence is being broken.

“It is not a problem of culture or religion or education – it is happening in educated families. It’s not one person but several who are dangerous for that woman; sometimes even the woman might underestimate the danger she is in.

“Here in the UK younger people are at risk because they have grown up in this country and they want to adapt and live in the modern world, they don’t want barriers to who they can be in love with or not be in love with, whether they wear traditional clothes or not, basic freedoms that many traditional families don’t like.

“Honour is a very old tradition but it cannot operate in this country. The children do not even understand it. It’s two lives for these children and the differences put huge emotional pressures and guilt on them and leave them very vulnerable,” she said.

“Before Heshu, honour killing was not a serious crime and perpetrators were treated leniently under the name of cultural sensitivity. Now there are no reductions in sentence. In the case of Banaz, the judge said that if this is the culture then the culture needs to be changed, not the women sacrificed for the culture.” Nammi believes that patriarchal religious leaders are failing women.

“Those who are lagging behind now are the religious leaders. They may pay lip service to change but they have networks and contacts and they are not trying to change anything. Sharia courts are letting Muslim women down and I am sorry to say that the British government is turning a blind eye to these courts. We have civil laws that cover every individual; none of these religious courts provide the same rights and protections for women.”

Irfan Chishti, a leading imam in Manchester, said the phenomenon was so secretive that it could be hard to identify who was at risk: “It is not an Islamic issue, it’s more of a tribal tradition that cuts across several faiths, but I can say categorically that it is not acceptable.

“It’s difficult to ascertain the extent of this problem but I like to think that faith leaders are speaking out against it. Honour is a way of measuring dignity and respect and it is a very individualistic thing. Dishonour to one person is not the same as to another but we have to be very clear that there is never any justification for such horrific crimes.”

Honour-based violence can be a socioeconomic issue. Experts say there is a strong correlation between violence against women and issues such as inequality between men. In deprived communities where men are struggling to earn a living they can feel subordinated and lacking in respect, and so try to get their authority back by dominating anyone below them, usually women.

In Pakistan the practice of honour killing – called karo-kari – sees more than 10,000 women die each year. In Syria, men can kill female relatives in a crime of passion as long as it is not premeditated. It is legal for a husband to kill his wife in Jordan if he catches her committing adultery. Crime of passion can be a full or partial defence in a number of countries including Argentina, Iran, Guatemala, Egypt, Israel and Peru.

Confusion in immigrant communities where people feel adrift in a new culture and try to anchor themselves to the past is a key factor, says Haras Rafiq, a former government adviser on faith issues and the co-founder of the Sufi Muslim Council. “Religion becomes infused with cultural practices and honour takes on an overinflated importance,” he said.

He agreed with anti-forced marriage campaigners that women were being let down by their religious and community leaders.

“The Sharia courts are not doing anything about the forced marriage or honour killing issue as a whole,” he said. “Other countries, the places many immigrants have come from, have moved on, but the immigrant doesn’t know that and he needs to be told.”

He wants his children to do whatever he tells them to do and this he sees as right but from a religious perspective it is not. “The reality is that honour killing is a crime and a crime of deep shame,” he said.

For Zena, she has her life but does not have her freedom. “When I first ran away I would go to the library and read loads of spy books to pick up tips. You have to teach yourself how to best keep hidden,” she said. “My life is about keeping a very low profile now and about looking over my shoulder, but at least I know I am alive and I grieve for those poor girls who are not.”

taken from : http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/oct/25/honour-killings-victims-domestic-violence

School lessons to tackle domestic violence

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Every school pupil in England is to be taught that domestic violence against women and girls is unacceptable, as part of a new government strategy.

Under the plans, from 2011 children will be taught from the age of five how to prevent violent relationships.

And next year, two helplines will be set up to deal with sexual violence and stalking and harassment.

The charity Refuge has welcomed the move but parents’ groups questioned the government’s interference.

More than £13m is being provided to help support male and female victims of sexual and domestic violence in a range of actions by the police, local authorities, NHS and government.

From 2011, lessons in gender equality and preventing violence in relationships will be compulsory in the personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education curriculum.

Before qualifying, trainee teachers will have to learn about teaching gender awareness and domestic violence.

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said lessons would be age appropriate.

ON THE CURRICULUM
The issue of domestic violence will be dealt with in the sex and relationships element of PSHE lessons
The focus in primary schools is on developing positive relationships; naming body parts; what is appropriate intimacy; and puberty
It aims to prepare young people for mature and unembarrassed discussion when they are older

“The appropriateness of what you do with someone who is five years old is totally different in terms of content and how you will be taught to someone who is 15 or 16,” he said.

Younger children could be taught to prevent bullying and learn how names could hurt people, he added.

 

Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

School lessons to tackle domestic violence outlined

Domestic violence victim

One million women a year are said to experience domestic violence

Every school pupil in England is to be taught that domestic violence against women and girls is unacceptable, as part of a new government strategy.

Under the plans, from 2011 children will be taught from the age of five how to prevent violent relationships.

And next year, two helplines will be set up to deal with sexual violence and stalking and harassment.

The charity Refuge has welcomed the move but parents’ groups questioned the government’s interference.

More than £13m is being provided to help support male and female victims of sexual and domestic violence in a range of actions by the police, local authorities, NHS and government.

This political correctness is turning our children into confused mini-adults from the age of five to nine
Margaret Morrissey, Parents Outloud

From 2011, lessons in gender equality and preventing violence in relationships will be compulsory in the personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education curriculum.

Before qualifying, trainee teachers will have to learn about teaching gender awareness and domestic violence.

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said lessons would be age appropriate.

ON THE CURRICULUM
The issue of domestic violence will be dealt with in the sex and relationships element of PSHE lessons
The focus in primary schools is on developing positive relationships; naming body parts; what is appropriate intimacy; and puberty
It aims to prepare young people for mature and unembarrassed discussion when they are older

“The appropriateness of what you do with someone who is five years old is totally different in terms of content and how you will be taught to someone who is 15 or 16,” he said.

Younger children could be taught to prevent bullying and learn how names could hurt people, he added.

But critics have accused the government of interfering in how parents bring up their children.

Margaret Morrissey, of the Parents Outloud campaign group, said schools should focus on teaching children to read and write.

“This political correctness is turning our children into confused mini-adults from the age of five to nine,” she said.

Strangling and slapping

Recent research by the children’s charity NSPCC found one in four girls, some as young as 13, had been slapped or hit by their boyfriends.

It also found one in nine had been beaten up, hit by objects or strangled.

Christine Barter, NSPCC senior research fellow at Bristol University, said it was a significant problem that had not been addressed.

Graphic showing the extent of domestic violence

She suggested the problem arose from teenage girls’ “unequal power relationships” with boyfriends – a feature of violent adult relationships too.

She said it was particularly disconcerting that these girls were not telling anyone about the violence.

Plans will also see the piloting of domestic violence protection orders – or “Go” orders – which could see perpetrators excluded from their homes and give victims space to apply for longer-term protection.

A health taskforce set up to examine the role of the NHS in response to female victims of violence will publish recommendations in 2010.

There were 293,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2008/09, with 77% of the victims women, according to the British Crime Survey.

However, the government estimates up to one million women experience at least one incident of domestic abuse every year.

Home Office minister Alan Campbell said domestic violence against men was also a problem but women and girls were the focus of this latest strategy because 80% of domestic violence victims were female.

The strategy coincides with the launch of the Four Ways to Speak Out campaign by domestic violence charity Refuge, fronted by famous faces such as Dame Helen Mirren and Sheryl Gascoigne.

ANALYSIS
Sue Littlemore, BBC News

Why is the government launching a campaign to end violence against women and girls in particular?

The difference is that women disproportionately become the victims of these crimes.

The figures on domestic violence demonstrate the point.

The latest Home Office figures suggest that in one year, 106 people were killed by a current or former partner.

But the overwhelming majority, 72 of them, were women. It means that domestic attacks result in the death of at least one woman every week, on average, in England and Wales.

 

It wants people to sign a petition urging the government to put an end to “the postcode lottery of domestic violence services”.

Lisa King, director of communications at Refuge, welcomed the government’s plans but said one in three authorities still did not provide such services.

She believes councils should be required by law to provide services for victims of domestic violence and the government should help fund them.

She added that the “particular needs” of abused women from ethnic minority backgrounds also needed to be properly served.

It is a view echoed by Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council.

“We know that refugee women are disproportionately likely to be affected by rape and sexual violence… it is therefore of great concern that women fleeing violence find it difficult to access appropriate services in the UK, and there is nothing in this strategy to address this,” she said.

Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, said tackling violence against women and girls was one of the government’s top priorities and prevention was critical to long-term change.

“We have to work to change attitudes in order to eliminate violence against women and girls and to make it clear beyond doubt that any form of violence against women is unacceptable,” she said.