The number of cases of “honour” based violence, forced marriage and FGM reported to the police in the UK has increased by 53% since 2014, IKWRO’s new research shows. The research involved sending Freedom of Information requests to every police force in the country.

The number of cases of “honour” based violence recorded by the police increased from 3335 in 2014 to 5595 in 2015, meaning a spike of 68% in cases in the first year following the introduction of the law criminalising forced marriage. The number of cases dropped slightly to 5105 in 2016.

However, despite significant the rise in reporting since 2014, the volume of cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision is the lowest it has been for five years. The latest figures published by the CPS indicate that only 256 cases of “honour” based violence were referred to them by the police in 2016/17, just 5% of the cases reported over a similar time period. The 256 referrals resulted in 215 prosecutions and a subsequent 122 convictions.

A report on the police response to “honour” based violence, forced marriage and FGM was published in December 2015 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. The police watchdog highlighted a raft of failings and concluded that only three of 43 police forces in England and Wales were adequately prepared in all areas to respond to the needs of victims and take a case through to prosecution. The report laid out 14 recommendations to put in place by the end of 2016 and some are yet to be implemented.

One woman who IKWRO has worked with explained how she had reported to the police on two occasions. The woman is from the Middle East and has suffered repeated rape by her husband and abuse from his family. The first time she reported, she was assigned a male interpreter and shame prevented her from disclosing the rapes. This demonstrated a complete lack of cultural sensitivity by the police. The second time she went to the police, after considerable further abuse, she was criticized for not disclosing the full facts the first time that she reported and the police would not take the case further.

Diana Nammi, Executive Director of IKWRO says:

“The evidence could not be clearer; many more survivors of “honour” based violence are coming forward to the police. “Honour” based violence has long been seen as a hidden problem, but now encouragingly, it is increasingly out in the open. It is extremely positive that survivors are recognising that these abuses are crimes that are not accepted by society and are coming forward for help. 

It is very significant that this hugely welcome rise in reporting of “honour” based violence has come in the two years following the criminalisation of forced marriage in 2014. The evidence proves that the change in law has been a huge success. The legislation was hotly contested at the time, and many women’s organisations opposed it, arguing that it would drive forced marriage and “honour” based violence further underground. Importantly, the figures show that their predictions were wrong.

For ten years IKWRO lead the campaign in favour of the criminalisation of forced marriage, because we knew from our work with thousands of women and girls affected by the violence that it is essential that the law and the message it gives to survivors, perpetrators, statutory authorities and the public alike, is that forced marriage is a crime that won’t be tolerated. Now that the law is in place, we are seeing the positive results. Survivors know that the law is on their side and we have the legal framework to demand action from the authorities, not just for justice but also crucially to ensure these women are supported and safeguarded.

Criminalisation shone a spotlight on forced marriage and “honour” based violence. Since then, this has faded somewhat and in we’ve seen the numbers of cases recorded by the police fall slightly from 2015 to 2016. To maintain its impact, it’s crucial that survivors, perpetrators, statutory authorities and the public are made aware of the law. Investment in training public sector professionals, education in schools and public awareness is essential.

This new research shows that the low prosecution rates cannot be blamed on the incorrect assumption that survivors are not coming forward. With record numbers of survivors reporting, it is imperative that the justice system is fit to respond to them. Worryingly the evidence shows that survivors seeking justice are being failed and this is unacceptable. There is an extreme drop off in cases from the start to the end of the justice system. Of the large numbers reporting to the police, they refer very few to the CPS and ultimately we’re not seeing prosecutions. Whilst it is true that prosecution is not the path that some survivor’s seek, those that do, deserve justice and more needs to be done to ensure they receive it.

Over the seven years that IKWRO has carried out this research, we have seen cases of “honour” based violence recorded in every police force across the country, which shows that it’s a national problem that requires a national response. There is no time to waste, the consequences of “honour” based violence are severe and if the police don’t get it right, we’re likely to see more victims of “honour” killing.

The research was covered in the media by The Guardian and was the top story on Sky News TV and their website

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