Did you know that 5,000 individuals are killed around the world every year in honour killings? Honour-based violence (HBV) is a persistent international issue defined as a crime or incident committed to protect the so-called honour of the family or community. The concept of ‘honour’ has an important meaning for certain communities, and when a woman does not behave as expected she is accused of bringing shame to the family by her immoral acts. However, killing in the name of honour is just the most severe form of HBV, but this practice can be suffered in a lot of different ways, including forced marriages, kidnappings, assaults, and imprisonments. Most of the victims of HBV are women and girls, being those aged 25 or under at further risk.
While this practice is most common in South Asia and the Middle East, there is evidence that HBV is also a major problem in the UK. Official statistics show that around 12 people are killed each year as a result of HBV in the UK, with around 11,000 honour crimes recorded between 2010 and 2014. Although this data is already terrifying and unacceptable, the real scale of the problem may be underestimated in the official records. This is because many women suffering from HBV do not report these crimes due to fear, threats, or emotional and economic dependency on the aggressor. Moreover, the criminal justice system and other institutions, such as the police, do not make it easier for the victims due to a lack of preparation and knowledge on the issue.
One case of bad institutional handling of HBV that may ring a bell with you is the one that led to the murder of Banaz Mahmod in January 2006. Mahmod was an Iraqi Kurdish woman who moved to England at the age of 10. She was murdered by her family for escaping a forced marriage to a man who abused her and for later being with a partner of her choice. What is scandalous about this case is not only her brutal murder, but that Banaz did report to the police on several times fearing for her life, but her testimony was not taken seriously and was dismissed as fantasy.
Although the case of Mahmod was supposed to set a precedent in the handling of HBV violence by the authorities, honour killings have continued in the UK and formal institutions are still unprepared to understand and deal with HBV. In fact, although there are numerous reports to the police of HBV violence every year in the UK, only a minority of these reported incidents results in charges. It is imperative that measures are taken in order to protect the victims of HBV and to prevent these practices from happening.
Honour killings and HBV are atrocious acts, contrary to British law, that must be introduced in the political debate to take strong actions against its persistence. JAN Trust has been working on this issue for almost 30 years, involved at the grassroots level with local communities to raise awareness against this phenomenon and its awful consequences, as well as providing advice and guidance to women suffering from HBV. We also provide training on HBV for agencies across London and the UK. If you wish to arrange a training session please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.