Most police in England, Wales ill-prepared to combat 'honour' crimes - report

by Magdalena Mis | @magdalenamis1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 8 December 2015 15:28 GMT

A handout photograph shows Surjit Kaur Athwal (top) and mother-in-law Bachan Athwal at a wedding in India. Surjit's husband and mother-in-law were sentenced for her murder at the Old Bailey, London September 19, 2007. They said she had brought shame on her Sikh family by seeking a divorce. REUTERS/Scotland Yard/Handout/Files

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Thousands of young women and girls in Britain face abuse or worse every year for breaking family codes of "honour"

LONDON, Dec 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Most police in England and Wales are not properly prepared to protect women from "honour" violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), the official body monitoring the police force said.

There are "pockets" of good practice across England and Wales, but well trained, experienced officers are thinly spread, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said after its first inspection of the police handling of such crimes.

Thousands of young women and girls in Britain face abuse or worse every year for breaking family codes of "honour", often by asserting their independence - for example, by refusing an arranged marriage or embracing Western freedoms, activists say.

The violence occurs largely in communities with origins in the Middle East and South Asia, and can, for example, stem from a father's attempt to force his daughter to marry the man he has chosen for her, against her will.

"... these are crimes of unique seriousness, involving a degree of vulnerability which is absent in almost every other case," Thomas Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said in a statement.

Cultural traditions deserve "no respect at all" where they are being used to "imprison vulnerable people behind barriers of fear and the threat or reality of violence, and facilitate or intensify crimes committed against them", Winsor said.

"Honour"-based violence, often inflicted by members of the victim's family or community, ranges from physical abuse and forced marriage to extreme sexual control, including female genital mutilation, and in the worst cases, murder.

Between 2010 and 2014, more than 11,700 cases of such violence were reported to the police, according to Freedom of Information data obtained by the London-based Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO).

Only three police forces out of 43 were prepared overall for protecting people from "honour"-based violence, while three were "not yet prepared", the HMIC report said.

Derbyshire, Northumbria and West Midlands police were found to be prepared in every inspection area: leadership, awareness and understanding, protection, enforcement and prevention.

Those "not yet prepared" to enforce the law include The City of London, Metropolitan and Greater Manchester police.

The report called for a review of existing laws applying to all forms of "honour"-based violence, collection of data relating to the crimes and monitoring of the progress of changes, among other recommendations.

IKWRO called the HMIC investigation a "crucial milestone" but said a fundamental change was needed throughout the police to protect those at risk.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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