Honour abuse doesn’t just happen abroad – it’s here on our doorsteps

Telegraph: by Jasvinder Sanghera

As the world learns of Farzana Parveen’s fate, a pregnant woman who was stoned and beaten to death by her own family in Lahore, Jasvinder Sanghera calls on the Prime Minister to officially recognise honour abuse here in the UK

The world quite rightly has been shocked by the murder of Farzana Parveen who was pregnant at the time she was stoned and beaten to death by those who should have loved her the most; her family. This included her father, brother, uncle and cousins to name but a few. Her crime? To fall in love and marry a man of her choice.

This was to be the motivation that led the perpetrators to commit the crime, as they believed themselves to be victims and that Farzana had to be dealt with, as she was now a cause of shame. I remain horrified at hearing about such murders, but not shocked that they happen at all – as honour-related abuse is a widespread UK issue that can and does take the lives of many in Britain. Karma Nirvana, the charity I founded to help victims of honour abuse, has a helpline which has received 30,000 calls over four years, averaging over 700 calls a month today and every victim caller has an experience related to honour abuse.

Shafilea Ahmed is one of many young women who have been murdered. She was a bright beautiful ambitious young girl born in Britain, who lived in Warrington. Shafilea struggled to live a normal life that embraced all that Britain stands for, the right to an education, freedom, independence, democracy and the right to choose your partner in marriage. This young life was sadly cut short at the age of 17, when she was murdered by the people who were meant to love her the most – her parents. Her crime was linked to being a normal adolescent teenager whose behaviours were received by her parents as dishonourable enough to kill.

Shafilea Ahmed

Or Ruksana Nazwho went to my school in Derby; I escaped but she was not as fortunate. The suspicions of her family believing that she had the power to dishonour them as she had a secret boyfriend led to her being taken out of education and forced into marriage. When she was 19 years old she was seven months pregnant but her mother and brother believed the child she was carrying was not her husband’s but possibly her childhood sweetheart’s. This perception was enough to drive the mother to sit on her legs while her brother strangled her to death; they had a compelling duty to uphold the family’s reputation.

I am not able to rationalise the thinking behind a perpetrator’s mindset and there is no justification. But I am able to give my view as to why these abuses continue and how we all have a crucial part to play in changing and challenging this mindset. In cultures where codes of honour operate, there is an overwhelming drive and motivation to collective morality, values and beliefs, which show how the police could watch while Farzana was being murdered.

Within our own communities here in Britain, there exists a silence where many are aware of abuses related to honour crimes and do not report them to the police or professionals. This is not only collusion but moral blindness. I also do not hear the outcry, leadership or change from within those communities when these murders happen to send out a strong message about how honourable these women were, and that we as a community and country must remember and honour them.

I am now calling upon David Cameron, with Change.orgto introduce a day to remember the victims of honour killings, to raise awareness of honour-based violence and forced marriage. This day will be marked on what would have been Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday; a day for all to remember just how honourable these women are and to dishonour these abuses and those who turn a blind eye to what fundamentally goes against all that Britain stands for and what makes us proud to be British.

The UK Government is hosting an international summit in July on issues at the heart of honour crimes and my hope is that Mr Cameron will send out a strong message from the UK and remind all how we have a duty to unite on this matter. Next month for the first time in UK history, forced marriage will become a specific criminal offence. It shows we are on the right path but must never forget that this is a journey which requires commitment and for all to play their part. The days of dealing with these abuses as ‘cultural’ have to go – it’s not part of anyone’s culture to be abused. Cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.

I call upon you all to help us break the silences and reach those victims who the perpetrators seek to keep hidden, sign our petition, and start talking about these issues for what they are – child, public protection and human rights abuses.

Origional Post here:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10869418/Honour-abuse-of-women-doesnt-just-happen-abroad-its-here-on-our-doorsteps.html

Jasvinder Sanghera CBE is a survivor, campaigner and author. She is the founder of Karma Nirvana the leading charity for those affected by forced marriages and honour-based abuse. Her story is told in Here we Stand, a new book about campaigning women published on June 2 by Honno for £10.99.

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