“Whose Honour Are We Talking About?”

On Thursday 17th November members of WSSAG Wales attended a conference in London titled:

“Whose honour are we talking about?”

The conference was organised by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation: IKWRO and was in partnership with Refugee Women’s Association (RWA) and Turkisch-Deutscher Frauenverein e.V: Papatya from Germany.

IKWRO believes that all women have the right to live without fear and oppression. We provide confidential advice and other support to Middle Eastern women and girls who are facing domestic violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and ‘honour’ based violence.

Their campaign to “STOP HONOUR KILLINGS” explains:

Each year at least 5000 women and girls around the world are murdered by their families in the name of ‘honour’. Families often justify these murders by reference to religion, morality or tradition. In many societies victims of honour are simply forgotten about and the perpetrators go unpunished.

In the UK every single day girls and women are locked up, threatened, beaten and forced into marriage by their families. Some are mutilated, or even murdered. These crimes are supposedly committed in the name of family ‘honour’, but there is nothing honourable about them.

The government has no figures on how many people are affected by ‘honour’ based violence in this country, but in 2009 police recorded over 250 incidents in London alone. Across the country there may be thousands more.

Honour based violence is very real both in the UK and other countries. Some women who arrive in the UK are seeking sanctuary from the threat of this violence, which at its worst can result in death. Most instances involve family members, which is incredibly difficult for those affected to come to terms with and recover from, even when they are in a safe place. The trauma undergone can lead to psychological and behavioural difficulties for the individuals involved.

The conference raised the issue that HBV, Forced marriage and FGM are ‘closed issues’ with few willing to speak up about them in the public arena. IKWRO has been working hard to support women who have been affected by HBV in the UK or other countries as well as assisting those who are affected by the threat of Forced Marriage and FGM. They offer advice lines, counselling and advocacy for many women each year.

The difference between Forced Marriage (FM) and arranged marriage was discussed at length, because of the fine line between the two. To make the distinction, a lack of consent of one or both of the individuals who are to be married is considered a forced marriage. Forced marriage appears to be a sensitive issue among many families, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible for the person who does not want to be married to speak out. Going against the wishes of family members can sometimes result in ‘honour’ based violence.

The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is illegal in the UK and many people are working to make it illegal internationally, as this practice has many health complications, which can result in death. The origins of FGM are unknown but it is evident that in many countries this barbaric practice is still occurring for many young women. In some places it is seen as a ‘coming of age’ ritual and in other places it is considered to keep a woman ‘pure’ for her husband.

Papatya in Germany are one group who have made links in Iraqi – Kurdistan to discourage FGM in many villages. Their work has shown that changing the mindset of women who previously believed this practice to be justified, can spare other women and young girls from having to endure the procedure and it’s associated health risks.

The culture of disbelief in the UKBA makes it very difficult for Asylum seeking women who have had the threat of, or undergone HBV, forced marriage or FGM. Some of those affected are not believed when recounting their ordeals, causing more distress and trauma.

This conference showed that violence against women in all it’s forms can and should be challenged and eradicated. Those groups out there working tirelessly for the benefit of all women’s human rights are trying to educate and inform groups and individuals so that these practices can be abolished. This conference and IKWRO’s guidelines booklet form an important part of this process.

IKWRO can offer help in Farsi, Kurdish, Dari, Arabic and Turkish. To find out more about their IKWRO’s services please click here

The film above which has been directed by Frederico Forcolini provides insight into the horrific realities faced by those who suffer honour based violence, perhaps for choosing to marry someone for love.

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