Notts Police is supporting a national day to remember victims of Honour Based Abuse.
Britain’s Lost Women remembers those who have died in honour killings. It takes place today (Tuesday 14th July) the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old British Pakistani girl who refused an arranged marriage and was murdered by her parents.
Shafilea was suffocated with a plastic bag in 2003 in Warrington, Cheshire, while her younger brother and sisters were made to watch.
Her story has become the focus of the campaign, launched by Cosmopolitan magazine and women’s group Karma Nirvana, who have also published a report to lobby for action and awareness.
The campaign comes as changes in the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 now make it a criminal offence, punishable by seven years in prison, to force someone to marry.
Last year the UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,302 possible cases of forced marriage in the UK – more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims.
Notts Police recorded 74 incidents of Honour Based Abuse between April 2014 and January 2015. This compares with 86 incidents in the year 2013/14.
Detective Chief Inspector Mel Bowden said the hidden and secret nature of forced marriage means there could be more victims.
She said: “For most of us, choosing who we love and marry is not a luxury, it’s a given. And we don’t think twice about choosing what clothes we wear or using a mobile phone. But there are many people out there who are not able to enjoy such simple freedom.”
“Embracing westernised culture can be viewed as unforgivably shameful within some communities. Young people who simply want to be like their friends, to be free to go to school or college or wear the latest fashion, can be viewed as bringing great dishonour upon their family, who believe they are turning their backs on their heritage.”
“Victims come from families whose belief systems go back hundreds of years, where honour is valued and protected above everything else. Their beliefs may be very different from our own, but we cannot be blind to what is happening in communities throughout Nottinghamshire right now.”
“We have a dedicated team of experienced investigators for honour based abuse cases. These officers devote their time to helping vulnerable victims and tackling crimes committed in the name of honour. If you need help please pick up the phone we can support you.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “So-called ‘honour-based’ violence is a terrible form of abuse, with victims often betrayed by the very people who are supposed to protect and care for them. I commend Karma Nirvana and Cosmopolitan for holding the first National Day of Memory for Victims of Honour Killings.”
“Tackling these brutal practices in all their forms, including forced marriage, is a key priority for this Government. We have criminalised forced marriage and remain focused on prevention, support, and protection for survivors and potential victims. Through our Forced Marriage Unit we provide support and advice to survivors, women and girls at risk, as well as professionals, to combat this abuse both at home and abroad.”
Notts Police has written to local headteachers to raise awareness of HBA, warning signs to look out for and signposting them to local support networks.
Cosmopolitan and Karma Nirvana are urging everyone to go to change.org/dishonourthecrime to pledge their support to break the silence and raise awareness of this cruelty.