“Honour” killing is preventable

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As details of the “honour” killing of Celine Dookhran in London emerge IKWRO demands government action

Last week, on Wednesday 19th July 2017, in London, 19 year old Celine Dookhran’s future was brutally stolen from her in a horrific so-called “honour” killing. A second woman in her 20’s, whom for her safety remains anonymous, only just escaped, after both women had been kidnapped, raped and had their throats slit.

This week, on Monday 24 July 2017, two men appeared in court; one has been charged with kidnap, rape, attempted murder and murder. The other man has been charged with the kidnap of both women. IKWRO call for justice. Culture must never be used as a justification for violence against women and girls.

IKWRO have chosen not to not to publicise names of the perpetrators. Perpetrators of “honour” killing are often celebrated by those who share their values and IKWRO does not wish to give them a platform. There is no honour in murder or violence.

Although the police have not yet confirmed it as such and details are still emerging, it is increasingly clear to IKWRO, that Celine’s murder was an “honour” killing. The case bares the key characteristics of this horrific form of crime and abuse. It was pre-meditated, there are multiple perpetrators and it appears to have been motivated by perceived honour.

According to the Prosecutor at the first hearing, which took place at Wimbledon Magistrates Court, the two men entered the property where Celine and the second woman were, Celine was abducted from the shower and both women were tasered, bound with duct tape and rope, and socks were forced into their mouths. They were rolled up in dust sheets and thrown into a vehicle by the men, who were wearing balaclavas, which suggests that the attack definitely was premeditated. The women were driven to a house five miles away in Kingston, which one of the men was renovating. Both women were raped and their throats were cut. Celine was killed and her body was put in a fridge. The other woman managed to escape, was taken to hospital and told the staff what had happened. The Prosecutor told the court that Celine was ‘involved in a relationship with an Arab Muslim and the family members didn’t approve of this relationship because they are Indian Muslims.’ The court also heard that family members had warning signs, as they claimed they had to calm the accused when he grabbed an axe and screwdriver, threatening the boyfriend.

Every day IKWRO’s advice team works tirelessly to protect women and girls who are at risk of “honour” killing and other forms of “honour” based violence. Each year we receive thousands of calls from women, girls and professionals seeking help.

“Honour” killings are preventable, yet we know first-hand that not in enough is being done at government level. IKWRO is constantly terrified that our worst fears will be realised and that more women’s and girls’ lives will be brutally stolen. Last week, as news began to emerge about the “honour” killing of Celine, we at IKWRO were devastated and angry, but not shocked. We demand change.

The evidence is clear; “honour” based violence is a national issue, affecting thousands (more than 11,000 cases were recorded by police from 2010-2015 alone), which has been recorded in every single police force in the UK, as highlighted by IKWRO’s unique research using freedom of information requests. Yet still, in 2017, there fails to be a co-ordinated national response. As a country we are woefully far from where we should be in tackling” honour” based violence and women and girls like Celine are being betrayed their right to safety and to make fundamental choices, like who they can love, at the cost of their lives.

One strong warning about the extent of failings, was the scathing findings of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s first ever national investigation of “honour” based violence policing, published in December 2015, which found that only three of forty-three police forces were sufficiently equipped to handle these cases. Despite more than 18 months passing since its publication, we are bitterly disappointed at the lack of progress towards the urgently needed recommendations. Lives are being lost and the lack of urgency is unforgivable.

IKWRO’s daily frontline experiences show that the failings go far beyond the police. Urgent change is needed across the public sector. It is widely accepted that in “honour” based violence cases, where risk can escalate rapidly and the consequences can be fatal, that there may only be one chance to save the victim’s life. This is known at the ‘one chance rule’. Yet alarmingly few public professionals have a sufficient understanding of “honour” based violence, how to spot the signs, the steps that they should take if they fear someone is at risk, or the help that is available. Shockingly, despite that fact that it can be lifesaving, training of social workers, health workers, housing professionals and even teachers on “honour” based violence is not mandatory. This is disgraceful. The government has the power to change this and must act now to stop further preventable “honour” killings.

Why, still in 2017, are so few schools involved in tackling “honour” based violence? Schools are the most obvious way to reach many potential victims, as well as people in a position to help them, and potential perpetrators. Celine was born in the UK and went to school here. If she and her friends had understood their right not to face “honour” based violence and where to seek help, it is very possible that she would still be alive. The government has recently announced that relationships and sex education will be mandatory. This is a vital opportunity to save lives. We demand that the government ensures that every school educates students about “honour” based violence. We also demand that all school staff are trained on the issue and that existing school safeguarding is amended to include “honour” based violence. If this does not happen, we will lose more girls and women to “honour” based violence.

The government relies heavily on specialist charities like IKWRO to prevent “honour” based violence and to protect and support victims. They are right that we play a crucial role. We are trusted by women and girls at risk, we speak their languages, we understand the nuances, we involve them, we fight for their rights. But whilst relying heavily on us, the government are not ensuring our survival. Where is the sustainable funding that we need to keep on providing lifesaving services? Forty per cent of IKWRO’s funding comes from Europe and with Brexit this will be lost. Unless the shortfall is met, the consequences will be dire.

As we mourn Celine, we fight for IKWRO’s survival and demand change. “Honour” Killing is preventable and it must end. We need government’s support and your help to make this happen.

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