Special units to crack down on ‘Shame killings’


by Sunny
16th June, 2007 at 3:19 pm    

Good news readers. The Guardian reports today that “dedicated teams of senior prosecutors” will be deployed to “honour killing hotspots” around the country. “The move is designed to boost conviction rates and improve protection for victims.

This has been long needed and I hope more parents will be prosecuted for ‘Retarded Rabbit Syndrome’ (read this explanation). The newspaper also points out: “Under the new Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act, if a person fails to intervene to protect a family member they too can face justice” – good! Incidentally, I’m now veering between ‘Shame Killings’ and RRS as the new way to describe so-called ‘Honour killings’. What say you?


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  1. Robert — on 16th June, 2007 at 3:56 pm  

    Shame Killings sounds better, and would cross the generations more effectively than RRS, I reckon.

  2. Jai — on 16th June, 2007 at 6:39 pm  

    Devil’s Advocate Time, folks. Apologies in advance.

    One potential problem of the proposed term “Shame Killings” is that it could be subverted by the perpetrators (or those that support them) as being “killings justified because the target brought shame on the family”.

    So they’ll use it to flip the blame back on the victim.

    Sorry for not being more constructive. The only alternative term I can think of at the moment is “Domestic Execution”.

  3. Muzumdar — on 16th June, 2007 at 6:48 pm  

    Instead of sitting around debating endlessly about what to call ‘honour killings’, why don’t you middle-class liberals get off your backsides and do something constructive to stop this barbaric practice.

    Thanks.

  4. Gibs — on 16th June, 2007 at 6:55 pm  

    The Guardian story is good news if taken at face value.

    However, my one area of concern is the deafening silence coming from the “usual suspects” – MCB, SF, HF etc.

    SURELY if the aforementioned organisations felt this initiative was going to have a dramatic effect, these guys would be moaning about how “Asians will feel they are being stigmatised, blah, blah, blah ….” and “this will provide ammunition for the racist press yabba dabba dabba…”

    The fact that these “bigot protectors” have chosen to keep quiet makes me suspect that they are confident that the Guardian story is “all spin and no substance”.

  5. Don — on 16th June, 2007 at 7:10 pm  

    What’s wrong with Familial Murder as a descriptor? Avoids emotive or ambiguous.

    Muzumdar,
    Any practical suggestions?

  6. El Cid — on 16th June, 2007 at 7:44 pm  

    It’s fascist police state

  7. Galloise Blonde — on 16th June, 2007 at 7:48 pm  

    No apologies needed Jai, I was well aware of that when I made the suggestion.

    If I get any more info on these task forces (and I will be looking for it) I’ll let you know.

    Gibs: Hopefully even they realise that that would be the height of callousness.

  8. Don — on 16th June, 2007 at 8:09 pm  

    Muzumdar,

    Inspired. Right, lads, pack your travelling bags and hit the road. Problem solved.

    By the way, why do you address me by a handle other than the one I post under?

  9. Jeevan — on 16th June, 2007 at 8:32 pm  

    Muzumdar’s right, if no one actually goes into the temples and mosques – honour killings will continue.

    Better still how about they target the idiotic “groups” set up to “protect” family’s interests???(linked to temples and mosques) – By this i mean those who blackmail girls who are going out with someone of their own choice, discovered through various surveillance techniques.

    Sounds far fetched? – That’s what i thought, until my friend in Coventry received a letter stating she needed to end her relationship with a non Sikh, if she didn’t her family would be informed.

    They had addresses, photos, her family members full names and recorded telephone calls!!!- the only contact they left for her was an email address sounding very similar to an organisation i know in Birmingham.

    ..truthfully if a man walks into our places of worship and speaks out about this subject he will be heard – a woman will be ignored.

    It’s ridiculous that the religious organisations believe this is a reasonable way of protecting their faith and it’s followers. I for one welcome them to the hotspots : Coventry, Rochdale, Birmingham, Bolton and the list goes on………….

  10. sabinaahmed — on 16th June, 2007 at 9:26 pm  

    This is great news ,if it is true. Some of us have been raising our voices against this practice for ages.Let us hope something does happen this time.

  11. Rumbold — on 16th June, 2007 at 10:09 pm  

    I agree with Jai: ‘Shame’ killings would encounter the same problem as ‘honour’ killings, because both can be used to suggest some sort of inpropriety on the part of the victim. If RRS was used, everybody would immediatly jump on the ‘retarded’ bit.

    ‘Domestic Execution’ is in my opinion the best one so far; familial murder is accurate but there really needs to be a term that can only really be ascribed to planned killings of one’s female relatives. Execution invokes a sort of cold-bloodnesses, which is really what most ‘honour’ killings are, rather than murders in ‘the heat of the moment’.

  12. sabinaahmed — on 16th June, 2007 at 10:18 pm  

    Muzumdar

    You suggest that we go to a mosque/Gurdwara to tell them that this is a bad practice? I think that WILL be preaching to the converted.These vile acts are carried out not because of any doctrine,but due to amisplaced tribal loyalty.It is more productive to support the police and press the government to take a harsher line. After my last article in AIM,the editor of a magazine for the police force did an interview,and reproduced the article and conveyed the anger the PP contributers have expressed in their comments. It was a small step, but it goes a long way towards carrying our message to those who have the power to do something about it.Dont you agree?
    More effective tha shouting in the mosques me thinks.

  13. Katy Newton — on 16th June, 2007 at 10:38 pm  

    Why don’t we just call it murder?

    And when members of a family conspire to murder someone, why don’t we just call that conspiracy to murder?

    What is this obsession with buzzwords to describe something which has been illegal in this country since before the Norman Conquest?

  14. douglas clark — on 17th June, 2007 at 4:21 am  

    Whilst I really do agree with Katy, the word ‘assassination’ seems to fit the bill. Given that we are attempting to make it totally unacceptable. No excuses, no defence.

    So, ‘family assassins’ or ‘family assassinations’.

    Least they’d be stuck for pointing it back at the victim, huh?

  15. Katy Newton — on 17th June, 2007 at 7:48 am  

    When is murder acceptable? If there’s any excuse for murder it isn’t murder, it’s manslaughter. I am all for educating police to deal with culturally sensitive situations but don’t ask me to say that so-called honour killings are any worse than any other brutal murder, because they aren’t.

  16. Rumbold — on 17th June, 2007 at 12:59 pm  

    Katy:

    The need for a separate term arises from the nature of ‘honour’ killings. Of course it is murder, but if we just describe it as murder, then the public are less likely to realize that these are not a series of random events ‘in the heat of the moment’, but rather a way of dealing with daughters that is cold and callous, and methodically planned, and has a rationality (in the murderer’s mind).

  17. douglas clark — on 17th June, 2007 at 1:44 pm  

    Katy,

    You are right in what you say at 15. Murder is never acceptable. I just don’t like the phrase ‘honour killings’ which sounds a bit like a plea bargain.

    Like a jury is supposed to take into account the juxtaposition of ‘honour’ with ‘killings’. The words have no merit next to each other.

    It is as Rumbold says it is, a callous and planned act. The phrase, expression, whatever, minimises that, I think.

    Which is why it should be abandoned. Flushed down the toilet of history.

    If I thought that Sorus’ completely brilliant suggestion had legs, and we could make it stick, then I’d vote for that.

  18. Kulvinder — on 17th June, 2007 at 3:30 pm  

    Under the new Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act, if a person fails to intervene to protect a family member they too can face justice”

    This is fairly awesome reasoning. The people who carried out the murder would be charged with murder or as an accomplice to murder. Now its an offence for someone who didn’t participate in the murder to have not done anything in a situation where there was obviously great personal risk to themselves.

    I realise im going ‘against’ the law and as such im a complete moral subversive (yay!) but if i were in a situation where i was part of a highly conservative and patriarchal family where extreme violence was a possibility i wouldn’t be going out of my way to antagonise anyone, because you know, i don’t want to die. It’ll be even more awesome if members of the household where the killing took place implicate themselves whilst giving evidence against the people who actually did the killing.

    How the hell is it possible to not participate in the murder but be culpable for the death?

  19. Kulvinder — on 17th June, 2007 at 3:43 pm  

    (c) at that time there was a significant risk of serious physical harm being caused to V by the unlawful act of such a person, and

    (d) either D was the person whose act caused V’s death or-

    (i) D was, or ought to have been, aware of the risk mentioned in paragraph (c),

    (ii) D failed to take such steps as he could reasonably have been expected to take to protect V from the risk, and

    (iii) the act occurred in circumstances of the kind that D foresaw or ought to have foreseen.

    What the hell are reasonable steps? You’re hardly going take anyone to a refuge and nonchalantly go back and tell everyone what you’ve done. Assuming the victim was in an ‘unapproved’ relationship they obviously had the freedom to go where they wished, and its up to them to check into a refuge. They’d be as aware as anyone else in the family that the relationship was severely frowned upon. If you’re not participating in the murder what exactly are you meant to have done to prevent it?!?!

  20. Don — on 17th June, 2007 at 8:01 pm  

    ‘What the hell are reasonable steps?’

    I’m guessing that that is for the jury to decide.

    Just an example, if D knows or has a strong suspicion that a family invitation to V for a reconcilliatory meal is a ruse to commit murder, then a reasonable step might be a warning telephone call. Not to make such a call would surely be culpable.

  21. Muzumdar — on 17th June, 2007 at 8:04 pm  

    Don

    I (D) have a colleague at work and I have a ‘strong suspicion’ that he will one day become a suicide bomber. He speaks of Jews this, Israel that, infidel this, West that, global Shariah etc and is clearly of a Jihadic bent.

    If I don’t ‘make the call’, am I culpable for him self-detonating?

    (No joke by they way).

  22. Katy Newton — on 17th June, 2007 at 8:39 pm  

    I’m with Kulvinder. You can go to prison because you ought to have been aware of a risk to a family member?

    This is exactly the sort of law that everyone thinks is a good idea until they come up against the wrong side of it.

  23. Sunny — on 17th June, 2007 at 9:20 pm  

    If I don’t ‘make the call’, am I culpable for him self-detonating?

    I wouldn’t weep if they shipped you off to gitmo Muzumdar. Are you looking for sympathy?

    Assuming the victim was in an ‘unapproved’ relationship they obviously had the freedom to go where they wished, and its up to them to check into a refuge.

    Not necessarily Kulvinder. An ‘unapproved’ relationship may come from limited contact at school/college/uni. Doesn’t mean a girl has the confidence to run away or disobey her parents openly. You’re playing devil’s advocate without taking into account people’s emotions here.

    The law isn’t perfect but it NEVER is. It always comes to the judge / jury to make sure they make the right call. Sounds ok to me.

  24. Muzumdar — on 17th June, 2007 at 9:48 pm  

    Are you looking for sympathy?

    No, just applying Don’s logic to similar circumstances.

  25. leon — on 17th June, 2007 at 10:14 pm  

    Why don’t we just call it murder?

    And when members of a family conspire to murder someone, why don’t we just call that conspiracy to murder?

    What is this obsession with buzzwords to describe something which has been illegal in this country since before the Norman Conquest?

    The woman speaks sense, why aren’t more of you listening to her?

  26. Don — on 18th June, 2007 at 1:52 am  

    Muzmdar,

    If you genuinely feel he is an immediate risk to others, then yes.

  27. Kulvinder — on 18th June, 2007 at 11:22 am  

    Not necessarily Kulvinder. An ‘unapproved’ relationship may come from limited contact at school/college/uni. Doesn’t mean a girl has the confidence to run away or disobey her parents openly. You’re playing devil’s advocate without taking into account people’s emotions here.

    My point was just to highlight the impracticality of the ‘test’. If someone has a ‘degree of freedom’ from family social control they can use that to get their own help – if need be from the school/university etc. Unless we’re taking some bizzare definition of a relationship (‘they looked at each other across the lecture theatre and hence were a couple’ etc) there had to have been the ability to do what they chose to do. Its nonsensical to say that they had the freedom for an ‘illicit’ relationship but didn’t have the freedom to find help.

    And im not playing devil’s advocate; holding someone culpable for not forseeing extreme events that they didn’t participate in, and had no actual prior knowledge of is lunacy.

    The law isn’t perfect but it NEVER is. It always comes to the judge / jury to make sure they make the right call. Sounds ok to me.

    You could apply that logic to anything – If you broaden the scope of ‘negligence’ into other areas you may as well charge the Mccanns when they come back for leaving their children unattended or charge the parents in situations like this.

  28. Kulvinder — on 18th June, 2007 at 11:29 am  

    nb i also agree with Muzumdar about the terrorism aspect; its arguably already going down the route with the arresting of Mohammed Sidique Khan’s wife and in the prospect article that sid originally linked the families knew that the men concerned were becomming more conservative, but to hold them culpable for not thinking of their son/brother/husband as a suicide bomber!!?

    Are we seriously asking for people who have family members sympathetic to the far right to start reporting them to the police because they could turn into another David Copeland??

  29. sonia — on 18th June, 2007 at 12:19 pm  

    Again, if someone is guilty, then its one thing. It’s another to imagine that everyone in a family knows what’s going on ( given what Asian families are like!) and then has the ability to assess exactly what is going to happen, and then act on it. That’s something different isn’t it?

    So given asian families are pretty big and pretty hierarchical in terms of the weight of what you say being dependent on your own vulnerable position – has anyone considered this? Are we counting cousins, second cousins here?

    Sunny I do hope for your sake you haven’t got some cousin somewhere who isn’t forced into marriage – technically if you didn’t do anything about it, you’d be in jail too right?

    It’s one thing if you suspect your family are cold-blooded murderers and you toddle off to the police to cover your own back in case something happens. But how many people really think their families are cold-blooded murderers?

    Also i have to say many arranged marriages seem to happen with very little knowledge on the part of siblings if they are younger. I know for example no one in my family ever told me anything – my eldest sister who lives in bangladesh always had a difficult marriage. for a long long time, the only things i ever heard were when i was visiting bangladesh and i heard things from the servants.

    Dunno, i see what people are trying to do, but it seems no one has really thought about the reality on the ground. it seems like one of those’ we’ve got to do something’ situations.

    well i’m glad i don’t have too many family members in this country, and when my 3 year old niece grows up i shall have to be very vigilant I can see. My sister is very traditional and i don’t imagine for a second she would go off and murder someone but hell you never know do you.

  30. sonia — on 18th June, 2007 at 12:44 pm  

    Perhaps we need to bug every Asian families house just to work out the family dynamics in the houses where ‘shame killings’ happen – otherwise we wouldn’t really know would we?

    Perhaps some detail is needed – are they restricting ‘family members’ to like the mum and dad in the picture, who are more likely to be suspects than say a younger sister. But how would we know that the mother wasn’t so abused herself she failed to protect her daughter? we won’t will we? Yes in theory a mother should be able to protect her child, but then perhaps in hindsight we should go and throw all the women who over the centuries failed to protect their children from their violent families/husbands. yes we also know many women perpetutate the violent norms but how do we differentiate between who is doing what? is someone going to come forth and explain how they are going to work this out?

  31. sonia — on 18th June, 2007 at 12:45 pm  

    “and throw all the women who over the centuries failed to protect their children from their violent families/husband into jail” i meant.

  32. sonia — on 18th June, 2007 at 12:56 pm  

    and to be honest, i can’t really see what difference it makes what they are called.

    it’s murder pure and simple and that’s that.

  33. ally — on 18th June, 2007 at 5:37 pm  

    Strongly agree with Sonia, Katy et al. It’s murder. No more jargon needed.

    Apart from anything else, it’s not that long since ‘crime of passion’ was an accepted plea of mitigation in a murder trial in the UK. It’s not that long ago that ‘domestics’ were considered much less important than other murders.

    As I’ve said elsewhere recently, I don’t really see the difference between a murder committed by a maniac drunk on ‘honour’ and a murder committed by a maniac drunk on Stella.

    The victim is just as dead.

  34. Robert — on 19th June, 2007 at 11:29 am  

    Ally, Katy et al –

    I think that the reason for focussing on these kinds of killings was not so much to do with the severity of the crime (murder is murder) but due to the way they are detected and prevented.

    The reason why there is this quibbling over language is due to the way the murder is justified within the family unit which perpetrates it. Reclaiming the moral language is the first step in defeating these justifications.

  35. sonia — on 19th June, 2007 at 11:35 am  

    but robert murderers of any kind no doubt might feel their murder is justified, what difference does terminology make to them? nothing. is the issue here then that some people feel that other people – not the murderers, are thinking it is justified therfore we are trying to change the terminology to get the message across to them?

  36. sonia — on 19th June, 2007 at 11:43 am  

    i quite understand focusing on these kinds of killings because of the fact that the communities generally keep hush hush about this sort of thing. Handling that i feel is about understanding social dynamics, not about terminology per se. sure im not against the terminology – i just think that’s a ‘shallow’ measure and not deep enough – if you folks get my drift.

    i said this higher up in the thread and ill say it again: there are wider social issues to be dealt with before honour killings will go away. catching the killers is one thing – absolutely we should be trying to do that.

    at the same time bolting the barn door and cementing it over finely and arguing over what brand of cement to use – isn’t particularly useful once the horse has bolted. got to wonder why the horse keeps bolting.

    and again i would argue – the big problems to tackle here are : families thinking they ‘own’ their children – and the wider arranged marriage issue. no one is really admitting to the fact that many arranged marriages do actually involve pressure from the parents. Not all the time, and it is complicated by the fact that a lot of people are accepting of this kind of parental and social pressure. Why even the younger generation are at it – encouraging each other to listen to their ‘parents’ and saying of course you shouldn’t think of marrying who YOU want to marry. and the amount of racism, classism, tribalism that we Indians can demonstrate when it comes to thinking of marriage – all those centuries of brainwashing is taking its toll.

    this is really the wider issue that most people don’t seem to want to touch with a bargepole because it would offend the ‘community’s sensitivities. In fact it is much easier to criticise this kind of behaviour from elders and families in india itself, pakistan and bangladesh, than it is in migrant indian communities elsewhere, it seems.

  37. sonia — on 19th June, 2007 at 11:49 am  

    example snippet taken from someone’s blog ( yes there are a lot of blogs out there recording the family pressure to get married – it is interesting to see the kind of ambivalence & struggle involved)

    “My father had been on my case to start looking in Bangladesh – which I had not really been in favour of for a number of reasons, but I decided to relent. Most of my friends who are doing the arranged marriage scene have gotten excellent brides from Bangladesh, and perhaps its time I joined the club.”

  38. Sunny — on 19th June, 2007 at 1:20 pm  

    Sunny I do hope for your sake you haven’t got some cousin somewhere who isn’t forced into marriage – technically if you didn’t do anything about it, you’d be in jail too right?

    Well, the conviction is for killings, not just a FM. But if someone in my family was being forced into a marriage that I knew of, yes I’d try to prevent it.

  39. sonia — on 19th June, 2007 at 1:57 pm  

    well i hope you would be successful sunny in your attempts. and that you could prove you’d tried. so remember to videotape it all as you’ll need it as evidence.

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