From Eliot Rogers’ killing spree in the USA to a woman being bludgeoned to death in a McDonalds restaurant in China and the brutal gang rape of two Indian Dalit sisters, it would appear that the world is at war with women.
These cases often feel alien to us because we are in the UK and feel a false sense of security that we are “safe” from such actions and thoughts. Think again.
According to IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation) nearly 3000 cases of honour based violence takes place in the UK with 2800 cases reported to the police.
They found that the top five worst areas for honour based violence (including murder):
1. London 495 incidents
2. West Midlands 378 incidents
3. West Yorkshire 350 incidents
4. Lancashire 227 incidents
5. Manchester 189 incidents
Violence against women takes many forms and ranges from emotional abuse, sexual harassment and torture to murder. Honour killings are an example of violence against women.
The Human Rights Watch, an affiliate of the United Nations (UN) defines honour killing as:
“Acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family.”
Whilst this definition refers to women, it is important to remember that men can also be victims of honour killings with homosexuality being cited as a major reason behind this.
Dishonour itself is a vague term and can mean anything from resisting an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce or reporting domestic violence to trivial things: make-up and Westernised clothing.
So why are women more likely to be victims of honour killings than their male counterparts?
In many cultures, women were (and are) traditionally seen as vessels of honour – izzat- for their families. Women were viewed as the “weaker” sex (although Star Plus shows that the saas – mother-in-law – is a force to be reckoned with) and in order to preserve their “purity” women had to be protected from the wicked ways of the world.
Fast forward to today: society has progressed and modernised. We have seen (and felt) traditional gender roles distort, merge and disintegrate as legislation paves the way for gender equality.
Despite this, why is the number of honour killings still so high?
There are isolated pockets of traditional thinking which have not been challenged by the community or made aware of because the victims are too scared to seek help, do not wish to see their families in prison or be a burden on anyone.
But there is hope: more survivors of forced marriages and those who escaped from their families in time are approaching the police and coming forward with their stories. More awareness is being made and more action is being taken by the Government.
White Ribbon Scotland reported that: “In 2013 the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice in 1302 cases of possible Forced Marriage.” Whilst this is promising, it is just the tip of a very large social iceberg.
If you, or someone you know, are at risk of being forced into marriage or fear for your life please contact:
End Violence against Women: 020 7033 1559
Forced Marriage Unit: firstname.lastname@example.org / +44(0)20 7008 0151 Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm
IKRWO: 09:30 – 17:30 Monday to Friday + 44 (0)207 920 6460