'Honour code' supported by young Asians, poll says

Unidentified Asian women

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Two-thirds of young British Asians agree that families should live according to the concept of "honour", a poll for BBC Panorama suggests.

Of 500 young Asians questioned, 18% also felt that certain behaviour by women that could affect her family's honour justified physical punishment.

These included disobeying their father, and wanting to leave an existing or prearranged marriage.

The results come as women's groups call for action to stop "honour" crimes.

The poll, conducted for the BBC by ComRes, interviewed young Asians living in Britain between the ages of 16 and 34.

To qualify as Asian, interviewees had to identify themselves as being from one of the following communities: Mixed Asian; Indian; Pakistani; Bangladeshi; Other Asian.

Asked if they agreed that families should live according to "honour", 69% agreed, a figure that rose to 75% among young men, compared with 63% of young women.

Root cause

They were also asked if they felt there was ever a justification for so-called "honour killings". Only 3% said that it could be justified.

However, when divided by sex, 6% of young Asian men said that honour killings could be justified, compared with just 1% of Asian women surveyed.

Experts interviewed by the programme argue that the root cause of "honour" crime lies in forced marriage.

Panorama: Find out more

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Jane Corbin presents Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour BBC One, Monday, 19 March at 8.30pm

Jasvinder Sanghera, a campaigner on behalf of Asian women, fled her parents' home after they attempted to force her into an arranged marriage when she was just 14.

She said it was time for Britain's Asian community leaders to speak out about the honour code, also known as "Izzat" in Urdu.

"I've yet to see community leaders, religious leaders, politicians, Asian councillors give real leadership on this. They don't because they know it makes them unpopular."

Ms Sanghera said the reluctance of community figures to speak out was "extremely irresponsible, it's morally wrong and it's morally blind".

A survey of police forces by the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO) found there were 2,823 incidences of honour crimes a year, or almost eight a day. But those figures are considered a vast underestimate given that 13 of 52 police forces did not respond to the charity's request for a breakdown in November 2011.

Nazir Afzal of the Crown Prosecution Service said the degree of honour crime in Britain - including murders meant to preserve a family's "honour" within their own community - was unknown.

"We don't know the true figure of honour killings. It's anything between 10 and 12 a year in this country. I don't know how many other unmarked graves there are in this country in our green and pleasant land."

Mr Afzal estimates that there are 10,000 forced marriages in Britain every year, and said a measure of multicultural sensitivity was likely part of the problem.

"Forced marriage is the earthquake and what's followed is a tsunami of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child protection issues, suicide and murder.

"If we can tackle forced marriage then we can prevent all these other things from happening."

Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour, BBC One, Monday 19 March at 20:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

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