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England Targets Honor Killings By: Sandra Laville
London Telegraph | Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Police are to examine the scale of "honor crimes" in the Asian community amid growing evidence that women are being subjected to violence and sometimes murdered for refusing to obey the traditions of their culture.

Those working with young women across Asian communities in Great Britain have charted a number of cases in which they have been subjected to violence by family members for choosing to follow an independent path.

Their perceived crimes can include wanting to go to university, refusing an arranged marriage or having a boyfriend.

While there is a great deal of research into honor crimes in the Middle East, India and Pakistan, until now British police have not examined the problem in depth.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said officers experienced in dealing with domestic violence were to research a series of murders in an attempt to prevent more killings.

"We are embarking on research which will enable us to pick up the early signs of domestic violence and other offences which may later turn into honor killings. It is essential to identify these signs quickly as this is key in preventing future murders."

Officers in east London are considering honour killing as a motive for the murder last month of Anita Gindha, 22, who was heavily pregnant. Mrs Gindha, who was born a Sikh but renounced her religion, was strangled in front of her 18-month-old son.

She had visited the Punjab as part of an arranged marriage plan but she later fled the family home in Glasgow.

Officers believe that her killer was known to her because there was no sign of a break-in at the house where she was living in London. They are anxious to trace "an older Asian man" seen nearby.

Detectives suspect she may have been the victim of an honour killing, after learning that she refused an arranged marriage two years ago and fled to London.

She later married her boyfriend but no close relatives attended the wedding.

In January, Sahda Bibi, 21, was stabbed to death on her wedding day in Birmingham after refusing an arranged marriage. West Midlands Police have charged a 25-year-old man with her murder and are still hunting Miss Bibi's cousin, who is believed to have fled to Pakistan.

Sudarshan Bhuhi, who runs a helpline for women, said she dealt with two new cases a day of young women fleeing home because they feared violence for refusing an arranged marriage or disobeying a husband. "Honor crimes are one of the biggest ways of threatening women," she said.

"The threat of violence and death stops women from taking their chosen route.

"Women genuinely fear honor killing; it is one of the first things they think about if they are considering doing something different with their lives." Domestic violence is often the first sign that women will be vulnerable to attack for apparently letting down their family.

Self-harm and attempted suicide - which in young Asian women are three times higher than the national average - are seen as symptoms of the pressures on them to conform.

"We need to raise awareness among the police and in the community, so the signs can be spotted," said Rita Rupal, director of the Newham Asian Women's Project, who welcomed the research.

Ram Gidoomal, a leading Asian businessman, said honour crimes were a "distressing practice." Political correctness was in part blocking exposure of what was going on, he claimed.

"Individuals, usually young women, face either being killed by family members or driven to suicide as a result of the shame perceived to have been caused by their behaviour.

"It is time that all those in authority stopped hiding behind the shield of political correctness, which allows the practice of such killings to take place under the guise of a 'cultural norm'."




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