Tag Archives: HBV

Why banning the term “honour” based violence and conflating it with domestic violence will put victims at increased risk

The Conservative MP for Wealden Nusrat Ghani, has proposed, in a new private members Bill – the Crime (Aggravated Murder of and Violence Against Women) Bill – that the use of the widely used and accepted term “honour” killing should be banned from official publications and that this form of violence against women and girls should be conflated with domestic violence. Both of these suggestions would have dangerous consequences for those at risk of “honour” based violence and lives will be put at risk.

“Honour” based violence and domestic violence are distinct forms of violence against women and girls, each with specific dynamics. Many women experience both, whilst some are at risk of “honour” based violence and not domestic violence. Each carries particular risks and requires different safeguarding approaches. These two forms of violence must not be conflated, and if they are, it is highly likely that there will be failures in safeguarding, resulting in serious harm and even “honour” killing.

Banaz: An ‘honour’ killing

Still from 'Banaz - A love story'

Still from ‘Banaz – A love story’

Artist and activist Deeyah explains the motivation behind her documentary film Banaz: A love story which features IKWRO. A shortened version of this documentary was shown on ITV on 31st October.

Government plan on violence against women and girls: OUR VERDICT

In January IKWRO asked our supporters to write to the Home Secretary and ask her to get tough on ‘honour’ based violence.  Many of you sent emails to Teresa may asking her to increase government efforts to tackle ‘honour’ based violence and to commit to providing training for all public sector workers.

That was six weeks ago.  On Tuesday you may have spotted IKWRO’s Diana Nammi in the Guardian, talking about the government’s new action plan which was released to coincide with International Women’s Day.  The Guardian article, by Rachel Williams, was titled ‘Honour’ killings plan does not go far enough.  But why not?

The action plan sets out what the government will do over the next four years in order to tackle violence against women and girls.  As far as ‘honour’ based violence goes, it commits to just three actions: 

  1. Work on the development of learning programmes for the Police on ‘honour’ based violence. 
  2. Continue training for specialist and dedicated prosecutors in ‘honour’ based violence.
  3. Identify models of effective practice to share with local areas, particularly those where awareness and activity to tackle ‘honour’ based violence is low.

While these commitments are all going in the right direction, the first two are not even new.  In 2008 the Association of Chief Police Officers also promised training.  Last year they finally began to develop a training programme but so far it hasn’t been rolled out.  The UK also already has specialist ‘honour’ based violence prosecutors who play an important role in ensuring that victims have access to justice through the courts.  Good, but again, nothing new. 

What’s more, training is also needed for other professionals such as social workers, teachers, health workers and housing officers.  Information sharing may help to tackle low awareness and improve the response to HBV, but so far it is unclear how information will be shared and whether there will be any monitoring to identify if local areas have used it to improve their work.

IKWRO believes that what is really needed is a national, cross government ‘honour’ based violence strategy which sets out what changes the government want to bring about, ways they will do this and how they will measure progress.  IKWRO will continue to campaign for stronger government leadership in this area through our UNITED against ‘honour’ based violence campaign.


100 years of International Women’s Day: Still not equal, and some are less equal than others

This blog was also featured on the Independent’s website for International Women’s Day 2011.

Today is the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day.  It’s a day to celebrate the progress that women around the world have made in fighting for their rights over the past century.  And it’s a day to look to the century to come, the challenges that remain for the world’s women and the obstacles that lie ahead.

Despite claims that discrimination is over, women’s rights remain a major concern in the UK.  From lower pay to sexist imagery in the media, women in British society are still not recognised as men’s equals.  But on top of this, women from the UK’s ethnic minorities face a level of discrimination which is unimaginable to most women in this country. 

At the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation we help Middle Eastern women and girls living in the UK to escape ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.  Since we began in 2002 we’ve worked with thousands of women and girls who have been beaten, locked up, threatened, mutilated, forced into marriage, attacked with acid, forced into suicide and even murdered.  Their families or husbands, who carry out this abuse, try to justify it by reference to culture or religion.  To them, women’s rights is not relevant to their community.  It’s something that happens outside.

Yet discriminatory attitudes come from outside of minority communities too, with many people in the UK still believing that the rights of women from ethnic minorities are somehow culturally relative.  Last week for example a receptionist in a London GP’s surgery said that she could not put up a poster advertising the help that we offer to women.  When asked why, she answered that it might offend men.  Would she have said this had the poster been for a domestic violence charity helping British women?  We don’t think so.

Despite all the international conventions which the UK has signed on to and the growing body of UK legislation on women’s human rights, our national government has also made exceptions to women’s rights on the basis of religion.  In 2007 the government introduced Muslim Arbitration Tribunals, which can resolve disputes related to family issues using Sharia law rather than UK civil law.   Under Sharia, it is extremely difficult for a woman to divorce her husband and child custody automatically reverts to the father after children reach a certain age.  A man can have several wives, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s and sons inherit twice the share that daughters do.  All of this is provided for under UK law.

The irony is that ordinary people and politicians do these things because they don’t want to be racist or culturally insensitive, yet their actions exclude the most vulnerable women from the rights that the rest of us enjoy.  Of course women from ethnic minorities aren’t the only ones to face abuse or sexism.  Women and girls from all walks of life still experience violence and discrimination.  But women from ethnic minorities are even less equal than the rest and if we want to make progress in the UK we need to ensure not only that women are equal to men, but that we protect the rights and entitlements of all of the women who live here.