Please note that Internet Explorer is no longer a supported browser so we cannot guarantee the integrity of our website when using it. Please use an alternate browser like Edge or Chrome.

Episode 9: Signs And Symptoms Of Domestic Violence

Part Six: Forms of Abuse – Honour Based Abuse & Female Genital Mutilation

Honour Based Abuse

There have been many crimes committed against women all over the world. In fact, more than eleven thousand such crimes have been committed, and recorded between 2010 and 2014 according to the police force in the United Kingdom. The justification for these guilty perpetrators has always been supposedly to protect and defend the honour of the family involved. Apparently, they believe their reputation is somehow at stake, and that they have not been shown in a favourable light. Suddenly as far as they are concerned there is a major issue, concerning a daughter, wife, or daughter-in- law. (Basically, the woman involved), has somehow brought terrible shame on the family. This is usually because she has chosen to disobey them, doing things her way, in spite of family disapproval and threats. As far as they are concerned, it becomes inevitable that such a woman must be made to pay for this. This kind of rebellion and bravado must be stamped out and completely eradicated. After all they certainly do not want any other women inspired to follow their example and get any ideas about breaking free. The family’s tattered reputation must be restored at all cost! In this kind of scenario, nothing is too high a price to pay, even if that means committing cold blooded murder!

An honour killing therefore amounts to when a murder is committed by the family of the victim. In their opinion, she is guilty of crimes such as failing to enter a marriage they have chosen, going off and getting her own boyfriend, (made worse if he is not of their religion or cast.

Honour violence is when a woman is brutally beaten up, taught a lesson which may even lead to death! As far as the family are concerned, she has brought shame on the family reputation and honour.

Often it is characteristic of honour killing and violence to be carried out by the victim’s own family, (parents, brothers, uncles, mothers, sisters). They entertain a firm belief that the family honour is worth protecting at all cost. They don’t take kindly, to their women folk adopting ‘westernized’ ways of thinking, as opposed to their more traditional customs and ways of doing things.

Occasionally a young lady has been able to involve the police and make a great escape just in the nick of time. If and when this happens, she will often have to enter the ‘witness protection scheme,’ which will involve changing her complete identity. The hope is that this will make it harder for her to be found. This however doesn’t stop them from searching for her! She will unfortunately, also have to move away from all she knows and all that is familiar. It is very drastic and traumatic, but sometimes the only way to keep her safe, from people who will kill if the opportunity presents itself. These are extreme circumstances.

Aneesa’s story

Aneesa was from Birmingham in the West Midlands. She was in her early twenties and very close to her mother, especially as she had recently lost her father. As a result of the death of her dad, her brother assumed the role of ‘man of the house.’ Before her dad died, he had arranged a marriage for her, with a man from Pakistan. It was however a marriage of convenience. Aneesa and her new husband lived completely separate lives. In fact, her husband used her just to get into the United Kingdom. Once married, they hardly had anything to do with one another.

Aneesa had a boyfriend of her own and got pregnant. When her brother found out about the boyfriend and pregnancy, he saw it as his duty to kill her for ‘dishonouring,’ the family name so he smothered her with a pillow. He was convicted of manslaughter and got five years. He claimed he was just trying to frighten her and didn’t mean to kill her!

At the refuge I often got chatting to the ladies and girls about their personal journey. It always helped to know where they were coming from, to get a better understanding of how best to steer them in the right direction. Many of them from Asian backgrounds often confessed, that they were mostly severely restricted at home. They were not allowed to go anywhere without a chaperone, not allowed to wear western cloths, or choose their own educational path, career or life partner!

Subsequently the women apparently guilty of bringing shame on the family were often effectively dealt with unfortunately, by killing them. The requirements of each family involved, varies from family to family, but the essential elements are the same. It is about control and manipulation and using brute force to exert the right, to dominate their victims.

There seems to be a problem with people tied up heavily in culture and tradition. (They seem steeped so deep in what they believe, that they cannot comprehend that their daughter who by all accounts may have been born in a western country), obviously does not share their beliefs, and actually has different beliefs on many key issues. These women are punished for doing so by the family, for not complying, and daring to be ‘wilfully disobedient!’

Usually when the family members are carrying out greatly orchestrated strategies, to keep the victim ‘controlled,’ they often go to great lengths to cover their tracks. This could and often does include, apparently co-operating with the police, feigning sorrow and regret if ever caught in the act of violence, or if the daughter seeks help from the authorities.

Kamila suffered much physical and emotional abuse from her husband and ‘the family,’ for many years. She ended up needing to see a psychiatrist because all the abuse had affected her greatly, making her very depressed.

Initially when she and her husband first got married, things were alright. After a few years however, he suddenly began to accuse her repeatedly of having an affair. Things got so bad between them that she left him and went into a refuge.

She had not been there long when ‘the family,’ persuaded her to return home. They promised things would change and they would give her far more support. She expressed reservation because her husband had recently married someone else (a new wife, with whom he had a child). They reassured her however, and she agreed to go home. Things did not work out and Kamila decided she wanted a divorce. They wouldn’t hear of it, or allow her to file for a divorce, as that would bring shame on the family. They persuaded her instead to have a break especially as she had been suffering from depression. They arranged for her to go to family members in Pakistan. When she got there, they seized her passport. They held her against her will and would not allow her to return home to the United Kingdom.

She was in Pakistan for eighteen months in all. During that time, her health deteriorated, and she lost three and a half stones. Eventually they decided to send her back to the UK, because they had run out of ideas about what to do with her. When she returned eventually, she ran away and went back into a refuge. She knew from experience that this was the only way to escape the inevitable abuse from the family.

Honour abuse often includes emotional, physical, and mental abuse, as well as deception. It works because the community within which it takes place all work together, keeping secrets and vital evidence hidden. It has been known to end in kidnapping, beatings and eventually murder in many cases.

 

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation is essentially the circumcision of girls, that can take place from an infant age, right up to a girl’s teenage years. The children involved have no choice in the matter. They are emotionally manipulated and physically abused by the people they love and trust. These same people unfortunately are determined to make the Genital mutilation happen. This cannot be taken lightly or watered down to make it sound better! It is what it is, and this is nothing short of child abuse!

It is usually carried out by older female members of the young person’s family, including mothers, aunties, and grandmothers. It is done in the name of ‘tradition,’ and is passed down from one generation to the next. Each of these women suffered as a child as they all had it done to them. Now as far as they are concerned, it is their turn to execute the same deed on these poor innocent unsuspecting children!

As the name suggests, the act involves deliberately mutilating, injuring, cutting and disfiguring the genitals of these girls. It is incredibly painful and can and often does include sewing up the vagina to make it smaller. The job is never done hygienically or with any anaesthesia, because the women responsible are just ordinary people with no medical training. As a result, it is often inevitably accompanied by infections, and major blood loss!

The trauma these girls experience understandably causes horrendous problems to their health and wellbeing. They subsequently suffer terribly during sex, and experience chronic pain. They can actually die during childbirth, because of all the complications that can and often do arise.

By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

“Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”