The 14th of July was the first Memorial Day for victims of honour killings in the UK.
The date was chosen to mark Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday. She would have been 29 years old. Tragically, she was killed by her parents at the age of 17 after years of abuse for supposedly bringing shame on the family. She was considered too westernized and had refused to marry the man that was chosen for her.
Sadly, Shafilea’s story is only one of many. And things have scarcely improved since then. More than 11,000 cases of honour crimes, including forced marriage and FGM, have been recorded in 39 out of 52 police forces in the UK between 2010 and 2014. Regrettably, we know that many more cases continue to go unreported.
In addition to this startling statistic, according to research by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) victims of honour crimes, specifically forced marriages, are being let down by the services that are supposed to help them. Social services, police and schools often fail to see the sign of a forced marriage or handle the cases improperly. For example, the girls are sometimes sent back to their parents or nothing is done to avoid causing ‘cultural offence”.
In a documentary recently broadcast by BBC Asian Network, the way honour crimes are tackled is investigated. What emerges is that steps have been taken to improve the situation – particularly within the police forces which now receive better training on the issue – but that a lot more still needs to be done. The mentality of the perpetrators, in particular, is hard to change. A woman who acts on her own will is still perceived as bringing dishonour to the family and if she chooses to break away she will be isolated and ostracised by the whole community. The Sharan Project aims to assist precisely those women and help them to rebuild their confidence and forge a new, successful life. But the ultimate goal is to eradicate this mindset and one way we can do this is through education.
Meanwhile, we welcome the initiative to commemorate victims of honour crimes. In fact, we feel every day should be a day to remember those who suffered or died, often at the hands of their families, simply for choosing to live life the way they wanted.
On the day, the Sharan Project attended an event in London where honour crimes survivors shared their stories. It was very emotional and showed that through adversity and abuse come strength and unity to step forward and not let your past define your future.
We have always been impressed by the many individuals and organisations that continue to work tirelessly to end honour abuse and who often do not get the recognition they deserve. Mothers, aunts, brothers, fathers, sisters as well as community groups, schools and professionals continue to work in their spaces and save lives without seeking anything other than helping others. It is important that we support and recognise everyone who is working to make a difference!
If you or someone you know has been affected by Honour Abuse, please do contact The Sharan Project for free confidential support. firstname.lastname@example.org 08445043231
To read more about honour crimes statistics and the National Memorial Day click here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-33516885
To listen to BBC Asian Network documentary Honour Code click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b060lxlt