There is neither honour nor justification in these horrific acts and the degradation of a woman’s human rights…
Honour based violence
So-called ‘honour’-based crimes are categorised by the Government as a form of domestic violence. An ‘honour’-based crime is a crime that is, or has been explained by the perpetrator of the crime as being, committed as a consequence of the need to protect or defend the honour of the family.
( Together we can End Violence Against Women and Girls: A Consultation Paper – Home Office, March 2009)
Protecting the honour of family and kin is fundamental to Middle East societies. In a culture in which bonds between people count for so much. Having a good reputation contributes to you and your family members prestige or status. Honour (sheref) it derives from a variety of sources. Hard work, wealth and generosity all bring honour and there is a rigorous compulsion upon women to retain their virginity and later to refrain from extra marital sexual relationships. They have to keep cirh (female honour) free from contamination of all costs but similar restrictions do not apply to men. Considerable numbers of whom visit prostitutes in the town and the cities with comparative freedom with no degradation of a man’s honour because she is nothing anyway.
The Arabic word for virgin (adhra) is a feminine noun used for refer to women only. There is no masculine equivalent for this word. The honour of the entire lineage rests on women’s sexual behaviour. In many Muslim societies there is no hesitation about celebrating a girl’s sexuality in very open ways. The stigma of dishonour of losing one’s honour/virginity could only be washed of by blood and blood alone is the mark of an honour on the wedding night. The blood proud out on the white towel which was held to fluster above people’s heads. The women let out a chorus of shrill you yous and the drums beat. The breasts of the men and the husband could now swell. For honour means the honour of the male to protect and control and the proof of it is in the body of the female.
(Eylem Polat – Outreach & Advocacy Volunteer – KMEWO 2009)
If you or someone you know is at risk of honour-based violence
Please call KMEWO on 020 7263 1027 or 07748 851125
Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247
Call the Police on 999
Banaz Mahmoud’s honour killing in April 2006 reaffirmed the existence of honour-based violence in the UK. KMEWO and the Middle East Centre for Women’s Rights (MECWR) organised a public meeting to address the lack of appropriate support for women fleeing domestic violence from communities that legitimize violence against women through a discourse around honour. The meeting resulted in a coalition of black, minority and ethnic women’s organisations coming together to form the Combating Honour-based Violence Forum.
Forum members have worked closely with key players such as the police, social services, housing, health authorities and politicians to enhance the awareness of “honour” based violence and the last two years the Forum has become a strong campaigning voice against violence and crimes committed under the name of so called “honour”.
The forum organises 6 meetings a year. There are seven full members of the Forum:
- Middle East Centre for Women’s Rights
- Southall Black Sisters
- Kurdistan Refugee Women’s Organisation
- Iranian and Kurdish Women Right’s Organisation
- ASHIANA Network
- Newham Asian Women’s Project
- IMECE Turkish Speaking Women’s Group
- EAVES “Housing for Women”
- Iraqi women League and one associate members
- Women Living under Muslim Laws.
However, following our Combating Honour-based Violence Conference on 28th March, many new members have requested to join the Forum, they are: Shaftsbury Leaving Care Services, Redbridge Community Council, Hearthstone Domestic Violence Advice & Support and Fawcett Society.
The CHBVF has continued to combat the issue of honour based violence (HBV) in the UK. The specific activities of the Forum throughout the past year are listed below:
- Regular Forum meetings have been organised since November 2006.
- The Forum continually updated its members on the progress of the trial involving the death of Banaz Babakir Agha. The Forum closely monitored the progress of the trial, including attendance at court hearings.
- The Forum released a press statement after the final hearing of the Banaz trial. Members of the Forum were contacted for comments on this “Honour Killing” case by the media and consequently the Forum’s views were reflected in the national press.
- The Forum organised a remembrance service for Banaz on the 26th of June 2007. The service both commemorated the life Banaz and expressed concern about the lack of an appropriate response to the threat to Banaz’s life. The remembrance service included a meeting in a hall near the cemetery were her body was buried. Chief Police Officers, Officers from Crime Prosecution Services and members from organisations such as Amnesty International and Rights of Women attended and spoke at the meeting.
- A meeting was organised in July 2007 between the Forum and Commander Steve Allen, the national lead on HBV within the Metropolitan Police. The purpose of this meeting was to consult with grassroots black and minority ethnic women organisations on improving the police response to potential victims of HBV, especially after the obvious shortfalls in response to Banaz Mahmoud’s pleas for help.
- The Forum has developed a positive relationship with the Metropolitan Police in order to find concrete and practical ways to address the issue of honour-based violence in the UK. Members of the Forum participated in the police working group meetings to formulate a police strategy on HBV. The final Metropolitan Police Strategy on HBV was launched in October 2008. [link]
- Members of the Forum participated in the internal enquiry organised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the shortfalls of the Metropolitan Police in relation to the murder of Banaz.
- The Forum has given a stronger voice to black, minority ethnic and refugee women’s organisation and has improved communication and networking amongst many women’s organisations statutory bodies such as the Metropolitan police, CPS and IPCC.
- Improved referrals and signposting amongst women’s organisations to help potential victims to find ways of leaving violent situations and has assisted the Metropolitan Police in improving their response to potential victims of HBV.
- The Forum has developed and agreed on terms of reference.
- The Forum has identified its membership criteria and is now calling for new members to join.
The Forum is empowered by its accomplishments of the past year. We look forward to next year’s work and the betterment of the both the Forum itself and the lives of those affected by honour-based violence. Our future goals are as follows:
- To continue in raise awareness of honour- based violence.
- To continue to lobby for the adoption of coherent good practices guidelines by professionals working with vulnerable women. There are currently a lack appropriate risk indicators to identify vulnerable women’s risk of HBV face among the police and this is a big obstacle to the safety of women affected by HBV.
- To continue to have regular meetings with the Home Office, Metropolitan Police, the CPS and other statutory service providers to influence good practice in services for women and to enhance the awareness of HBV amongst professionals.
- To strengthen co-operation with schools and local education authorities in order to raise awareness of escape routes for young people at threat to forced marriage or other forms of HBV.
- To produce written materials, including posters and flyers in different languages to raise awareness about HBV and to ensure that women at risk of HBV are aware of the services available to them.