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  • ‘Honour’-based violence conference


    by Rumbold
    15th May, 2008 at 1:53 pm    

    Yesterday I attended a conference on ‘honour’-based violence (HBV), which was organised by the charity IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation). It was an excellent event and was very well organised by Diana Nammi, Joanne Payton et al from IKWRO. The speakers were interesting, and ranged from policemen to CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) employees to charity workers. While there was enough interesting material to write half a dozen posts, I just want to examine some of the salient points:

    -The current estimate for the number of ‘honour’ killings worldwide is 5,000, and was compiled by UN official and human rights activist Asma Jahangir in 2000. Diana Nammi, founder of IKWRO, argues that this is a gross underestimation, as is the figure for the UK, which puts the number killed at 10-12 per year. Diana Nammi pointed out that IKRWO helped 70 women last year escape from HBV, and they are just one charity dealing with this sort of thing.

    -One of the main problems with measuring the number of deaths from ‘honour’ killings was the inadequate classification system. According to 1992 figures, South Asian women were three times more likely to commit suicide than white women in the UK. One can reasonably suppose that in at least some of these deaths the harassment by relatives/in-laws for alleged failings played an important part in the woman deciding to end her life. There is also the problem of tracking women who have been taken to Pakistan and elsewhere.

    -The speaker from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) spoke about how they helped around 400 women last year, who had been taken abroad to be forcibly married, or were at risk in Britain. The FMU is only allowed to help British citizens, but they did come up with a good way of reducing the prevalence of forced marriages where foreign-born men marry British girls and then come over to live here. The girl is expected to sponsor a visa for her new husband, but if she tells the FMU (in confidence) that she is reluctant, then they will contact the relevant embassy to get the visa refused, but won’t tell the applicant the real reason. The FMU’s number is: 0207 008 0151.

    -Among the speakers representing the state, there was a hearting consensus about the way to deal with people who report HBV. Too often in the past the authorities would simply go round to the relevant house and ask the abusers whether the accusations were true. Unsurprisingly, the claims were then denied, even by the victim, because the victim would be in the same room as the people who had been hurting her/him. Women who spoke little or no English would be quizzed by the police, who used as interpreters the very people (i.e. the community) she was scared of. Now there is more specialist training in dealing with HBV for the police and other authorities, London Boroughs’ children services have clear guidelines on how to deal with HBV, while one of the senior figures in the CPS, Nazir Afzal, was formerly the main prosecutor who dealt with ‘honour’ killings. There was also a greater willingness to refer women to specialist charities (such as IKWRO).

    -One of the best things the government could do would be to scrap or amend the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule. This rule ensures that non-EU immigrants cannot claim various benefits for the first two years that they are here. This creates a problem in that a woman who leaves her violent household has no support from the state, and would find it very difficult to get work, especially if her English is poor and she cannot get any references. No can she return to her country of origin, as her life may be at risk because she is held to have brought shame on her family by divorcing.

    -A family liaison officer from the police suggested that rather than ‘honour’ killings, we should use the term ‘control murders’ because the reason for the violence is the (temporary) loss of control over the victim. I though that was rather catchy.

    -The number for the national helpline is 0800 5999 247, and is run by victims of HBV, so they know what they are talking about. They received 300 calls in the first month alone. The hours at present are 9:30am to 9:00pm, every day.

    The most shocking part of the conference was when three survivors of HBV came to talk about their experiences. I have read a lot about ‘honour’ killings, seen the various pictures of mutilated bodies and so on, but it doesn’t really hit you until you see and hear someone in the flesh talking about being battered and beaten all the time, having guns pointed at your head or knives across your throat, are being so hurt that you were bedridden for weeks- all thanks to your loved ones. By the end of that segment, half the audience was crying, and the other half were struggling not to cry.

    So thanks again to everyone who helped to organise it.


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    Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,Events






    17 Comments below   |  

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    1. Galloise Blonde — on 15th May, 2008 at 2:56 pm  

      Wow! Thanks very much for coming and even more for writing this report. I’m glad you got so much out of it (although calling it well organised is a polite exaggeration):-)

      Can I repost this?

    2. sonia — on 15th May, 2008 at 3:12 pm  

      interesting.

      ironically most people don’t know anything about the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule.

      and it seems to be in the media’s interest to keep that shush, because otherwise how can you complain about non-EU immigrants ‘taking recourse to public funds’ if people find out that non EU immigrants can’t do that!?

      can’t fan flames so easily can you when you find people are paying taxes into your pot, not getting it back out, so who gets more as a result? People on the dole, that’s who. They’re the ones who most directly benefit from non-EU immigrants who work and pay taxes and have no recourse to public funds.

      and given that rule is in place but the immigration “debate” never mentions it or clearly has very little knowledge of reality and procedures, but is so inflammatory anyway. what would happen if you got rid of it/ Either one gets rid of in secret and doesn’t tell anyone, and then the daily mail will have something to complain about when they say ‘they’re getting benefits! Or you tell everyone “actually.this rule existed,..but we think we’re going to scrap it, and have a hoo-ha.

    3. Sid — on 15th May, 2008 at 3:48 pm  

      good stuff Rumbold.

    4. douglas clark — on 15th May, 2008 at 4:28 pm  

      Sonia @ 5,

      It would be rather nice if the government chose your second option and then stuck to their guns. The Daily Mail needs to be told where to get off, I think.

    5. Ashik — on 15th May, 2008 at 4:42 pm  

      Rumbold,

      I do not understand how the FMU can influence an Entry Clearance Officer’s (ECO) decision in spouse applications. A Notice of Refusal must be promulgated by an ECO whenever entry is refused. This is the legal basis for a subsequent appeal before an Immigration Judge.

      The FMU position has been that if a sponsor does not wish to support an appellant (for whatever reason incl. forced marriage) they must state this in writing. The appellant would fail to satisfy the ‘intention to live together and subsisting marriage’ element of the Rules. The application would therefore be refused. The appellant and his duly appointed legal representatives then basically have the right to peruse ALL the documents pertaining to the decision, including the letter from the sponsor withdrawing support. This is only fair.

      If the FMU has changed their position, I would be much obliged if you could point me to the new policy. It would not be in accord with natural justice. Generally it is best practice not to exclude information in court from one or another party.

    6. ERS — on 15th May, 2008 at 6:00 pm  

      Thanks for blogging about this, Rumbold. And brava to the ladies as IKWRO for organizing this conference.

      Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
      “Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”

    7. Rumbold — on 15th May, 2008 at 7:09 pm  

      Galloise Blonde:

      It was very well organised. I was especially pleased when I saw that they were serving meat at lunch. Thanks again. Please, by all means re-post this.

      Ashik:

      “The FMU position has been that if a sponsor does not wish to support an appellant (for whatever reason incl. forced marriage) they must state this in writing. The appellant would fail to satisfy the ‘intention to live together and subsisting marriage’ element of the Rules. The application would therefore be refused. The appellant and his duly appointed legal representatives then basically have the right to peruse ALL the documents pertaining to the decision, including the letter from the sponsor withdrawing support. This is only fair.”

      If parents are forcing their child to marry, then it makes sense not to have the child’s refusal in print, otherwise their life could be at risk when the documents were made public. Britain has (or should have) the right to refuse entry to anyone that it considers unsuitable. In a case like this, it is clearly not in the interests of ‘natural justice’ for a person’s life to be put in danger (as it probably would be), since Britain is not obliged to let that person in anyway.

    8. sonia — on 16th May, 2008 at 12:54 pm  

      that may be well and good in intention Rumbold, and i’m sure everyone agrees with you, but i thought ashik’s qustion was about how this sits alongside the very pertinent reality of bureaucracy and how the procedures ( which as you know, will not be tweaked for One person) are going to accommodate the spirit of what you are talking about.

    9. sonia — on 16th May, 2008 at 12:59 pm  

      and when you say “Britain” -

      Britain has (or should have) the right to refuse entry to anyone that it considers unsuitable.

      it is interesting, because of course i know what you’re getting at, but i would say the very pertinent point in all this is that the difficulty is there is no one “It” - there are different departments for example in Govt - which have different remits and rules and co-ordination of what “Britain” and “It” is doing - is the difficulty. Specially since Govt Ministers often do not know the reality of the rules their Dept - and hence “Britain” is setting out, and it is usually in conflict with the next Dept. is doing - who is also again part of what “Britain” is doing.

      i find it frustrating the complete lack of acknowledgement of the reality of bureaucracy in these sorts of discussions. “Britain” must do this “Britain” must do that. That sort of thing only works if you are having academic abstract discussions and contrasting “Britain” with “America” or something, in some sort of vague international relations way. We are here, we need to think about what “Britain” breaks down into : processes, systems, bureaucracy, different layers of governance etc. Otherwise, its all just vague journalism type talk.

    10. Ashik — on 16th May, 2008 at 5:06 pm  

      I am entirely in agreement with Rumbold regarding the intentions to protect individuals in cases of FM.

      However, there is no point in the ECO refusing a spouse application on the grounds of FM if on (the inevitable) appeal the courts are just going to overturn that decision.

      The ECO will need to show how he came by his decision to refuse. In doing so any representations made by the spouse eg. a letter stating it was a case of FM will be exposed. Presumably bearing a negative reaction toward the sponsor from her husband and family.

      We need joined up govt more than ever! A piecemeal approach to FM applications will simply expose the victim, possibly with tragic consequences.

    11. Galloise Blonde — on 16th May, 2008 at 6:51 pm  

      I don’t think Rumbold has it right actually. The latest Survivors Handbook from the FMU says the statement of reluctance has to be public. I can see why he wishes it was otherwise :-(

    12. mixtogether — on 17th May, 2008 at 1:34 am  

      I was gutted not to make it to the conference, which is a hazard of working full time while trying to fight for the cause…

      Galloise Blonde I’m sure you were smokin’ as ever :)

      Rumbold I know exactly what you mean about welling up when these truly lovely women are talking about such horrific experiences. Gives you a real fire in your belly to DO SOMETHING, right? Hold that thought…

      My loose understanding is that moves are afoot to allow young girls to turn down visa applications anonymously via the FMU. I know this is something many campaigners want to see. Don’t forget that stalwarts like Ann Cryer have been working their magic behind the scenes for a long time. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

      Things to watch out for now are ACTIONS by the specific individuals responsible for implementing all the good intentions that have been aired both at the IKWRO conference and at the launch of the Honour Helpline some weeks ago. For now I will simply say that we know the names of the government and police officials who are supposed to be acting, and as I have discussed with Galloise I think their names need to become much more current in the blogosphere to ensure proper scrutiny.

      The MSM has a habit of turning up to the big events and then stubbornly resisting any sort of follow-up coverage. This is where blogging can truly come into its own, with the kind of close access offered by those here present…

      First thing I would submit needs a good looking at is that the government is trying to quietly renege on its undertaking to make recognition of honour issues statutory in SCHOOLS. I hear they are looking to make it stat for health professionals and police, but are getting a bit queasy about schools. Fuck em. Who does a young child see most- a police officer, a doctor or their teacher? Enough said.

      We know all the names and pack-drill for these people, and I think a little scrutiny care of the 5th estate would go a long way to getting more done so that we’re not still hearing these horror stories in 15 years time.

      Can I get an ‘amen’?

    13. Galloise Blonde — on 17th May, 2008 at 2:34 pm  

      The speaker from Islington Children’s Services was adamant that training needs to be mandatory within her area. And as if to underline her point, Survivor three made the professionals in the audience gasp in horror when she described being removed from her abusive family and put into foster care in the same street, where she would need to pass the family home on her route to school.

      I didn’t know they were trying to get out of making FMU guidelines mandatory mixtogether. That’s really exasperating, because I think that was one of aspects of the civil protection act I can really envisage working. Can you give me info on that?

      I gave up smoking over a year ago. It’s about time I changed my handle :-)

    14. Sunny — on 17th May, 2008 at 4:05 pm  

      One of the best things the government could do would be to scrap or amend the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule. This rule ensures that non-EU immigrants cannot claim various benefits for the first two years that they are here.

      Agreed. This is a very pernicious piece of legislation… bought in by the Tories and Labour still hasn’t got the balls to get rid of it.

    15. Rumbold — on 17th May, 2008 at 8:14 pm  

      Sonia:

      Fair point. In this case I meant the Foreign/Home office, because that is where the relevant applications were made.

      Ashik:

      Sorry about that- thanks for the correction. I was going on what the lady from the FMU said at the conference.

      Mixtogether:

      “First thing I would submit needs a good looking at is that the government is trying to quietly renege on its undertaking to make recognition of honour issues statutory in SCHOOLS. I hear they are looking to make it stat for health professionals and police, but are getting a bit queasy about schools. Fuck em. Who does a young child see most- a police officer, a doctor or their teacher? Enough said.”

      I have to agree with you 100% there. Too many schools are resistant to promoting this sort of teaching, for fear of offending people.

    16. El Cid — on 18th May, 2008 at 4:09 pm  

      http://uk.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUKNOA63974220080516

    17. mixtogether — on 18th May, 2008 at 8:01 pm  

      Galloise:

      smokin in the Jim Carey sense! Good to hear you’ve kicked the habit, I’m still strugglin. Will get you something concrete on that claim, if something exists.

      Rumbold:

      Thanks for that. If it does turn out to be true then I repeat that I think it’s something bloggers could do a lot to monitor. Please see my comment on Sunny’s excellent post about West Midlands police too.

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