Authorities ‘betraying’ honour victims, study says

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ASIAN taxi drivers are being used to track down and return women fleeing their homes from domestic violence or forced marriages, a new report has claimed.

A number of refugee centres across the country who regularly help Asian women say they have to deal with a number of informal networks which exist to track down women who are perceived as bringing shame on their family a community, a report by the Centre for Social Cohesion has said.

The report also said women fleeing domestic violence or forced marriages have been deliberately returned to their homes or betrayed to their families by policemen, councillors and civil servants of immigrant origin.

The findings of the report, called Crimes of Community: Honour-based Violence in the UK, were based on 80 interviews with women’s groups, community activists and victims of honour-based violence in the UK.

It examined how and why human rights abuses such as forced marriage, honour killing, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence are carried out in the country.

The reports authors, James Brandon and Salam Hafez, say that while the practice of exploiting networks such as the taxi trade originated primarily in the Midlands and in northern England, it has rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

Jasvinder Sanghera, the director of the Karma Nirvana refuge in Derby, said: “We have a huge problem with the taxi drivers here. We just can’t trust them. This can be a matter of life and death for these girls.

“If they get in the wrong taxi, they might just take them straight back home; straight back to the place that they’ve just escaped from.”

Findings from the report also revealed women have been tracked down through family members working in Job Centres accessing their National Insurance data which indicate where they are collecting their benefits.

Refuge centres were also frequently targeted, the report said, where members of local communities have sought to intimidate employees in an attempt to force them to reduce or end their activities.

In many cases, this has led to refuges having to move away from areas with a high immigrant population or to take measures to protect themselves against violence.

The Karma Nirvana refuge in Derby, based in the heart of the city’s immigrant area on Normanton Road, say that they have frequently been the target of abuse.

Jasvinder Sanghera, the centre’s director, said: “I had a serious threat this year. I was told by the Sikh community not to help the government or the police. They also told me that I should look out for devices under my car.”

And Shazia Qayum, who works with Jasvinder Sanghera at Karma

Nirvana in Derby, added: “The communities don’t support us. They say that we’re women without shame. I’ve had texts saying that I’m a disgrace to the Asian community; saying I’d better watch my back or I’ll get my head chopped off; saying I’m a slut. We’ve got police boxes in our office that can set off an alarm. I’ve got a police alarm box in my house – so does Jasvinder. We’ve had faeces smeared on our windows. I’ve not had any support from any community leaders.”

James Brandon, one of the report’s authors and a senior research fellow said in light of the findings the government needed to act quicker in dealing with honour crime.

“These findings show that the Government is still not taking honour crime seriously,” he said.

“Until this happens, the ideas of honour which perpetuate this violence will continue to be passed from generation to generation.”

Co-author Salam Hafez, added: “It is appalling that we are still witnessing these human rights abuses in the UK in 2008.”

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