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Page last updated at 01:03 GMT, Monday, 19 March 2012
'Honour' crime victims living in fear in the UK

By Jane Corbin
Reporter, Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour

Women wearing headscarves

Blanked-out windows, high metal railings, CCTV cameras and monitors - this is a building with high security.

I have come to one of a handful of refuges in Britain especially for Asian women and their children.

They are victims of violence in the name of so-called "honour", and they have all run away from a husband's home where the extended family has made their lives a misery.

In Asian and Middle Eastern communities, controlling women's behaviour is seen as key to the honour of the family.

Having a boyfriend, wearing make-up or Western clothes, refusing to marry someone chosen by your family or leaving an abusive husband - these can all be seen as dishonourable acts.

Panorama: Find out more
Jane Corbin presents Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour on BBC One, Monday 19 March at 20:30 GMT

All the women I meet have put their lives in danger by coming to a refuge. They are frightened at first in front of the Panorama camera but I reassure them we will not show their faces and gradually they open up with their shocking stories.

They all came from Pakistan as young brides, had their passports taken away and were often locked up, not even allowed to learn English.

They suffered in silence, cut off from the outside world. They were treated as virtual slaves, doing all the housework, and none of them understood what they had done to deserve such treatment.

Qawal had freedom in Pakistan but that all changed when she came to England and was beaten not only by her husband but his mother as well.

"My mother-in-law hit me in the face so hard that blood poured from my ear," she told me. "I didn't know anything about the outside world, I couldn't speak the language and didn't know anything about money."

When Qawal hurt her leg after being thrown down the stairs, her mother-in-law came with her to the doctor so she was afraid to ask for help.

"They kept me a prisoner in the house. Once I was locked in the upstairs bedroom for 13 days," said Qawal.

"I thought the only way I am going to get out is through the upstairs window or by killing myself. I just wanted to end it."

Qawal finally escaped, barefoot in the snow, and ended up in the refuge.

The only way out

The suicide rate amongst south Asian women in Britain is three times the national average, as women who see no other way out of an abusive marriage take what they see as the only way out and kill themselves.

And there are between 10 and 12 cases of "honour" killing a year, all of them characterised by extreme violence.

Often several relatives are involved and the murder is sanctioned by the wider family.

Women in the Kurdish and Iranian communities are also controlled by "honour". I met a young Kurdish woman, Leila, who came to the UK to join her husband, who turned out to be violent and unstable.

"He put his hands around my throat and said he would kill me and cut me in pieces and put me in a rubbish bag - no one would know," said Leila softly.

She ended up in hospital but she was pregnant and returned to her husband until things got so bad the police were called, and she was able to escape. But running away has not ended the threat to her life.

"The dishonourable thing I did was to go into a refuge because in Kurdistan a refuge is seen as a very bad place", Leila told me.

Jane Corbin and Qawal
Victims spoke to Panorama, with their identities concealed

No one really knows how many "honour" crimes there are in this country. The Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO), has recently carried out a survey of police forces statistics, which found there are 2,823 "honour" crimes a year. That's nearly eight a day.

But a quarter of forces did not respond and many crimes go unreported, so the figure is far higher.

There is now a national helpline for victims of domestic violence caused by "honour". Calls to the service have doubled in the four years since it was set up, to 500 calls a month.

At the helpline in an anonymous office building, I met a volunteer who is the victim of an "honour" crime. Neina was disowned by her family for running away from her husband when he beat her.

"Every time he hit me… my parents would say: 'Why did you raise your voice to him? You know you deserved it,'" said Neina.

Neina knows what motivated her parents. "For them to be disowned in society is a matter of honour for them. It's easier to sacrifice a son or a daughter than it is to sacrifice a society or your extended family, who you are trying to please all the time."

Neina nodded when I asked her if she was ever afraid she would be killed. "A lot of times, even now... my Dad has already said it to me: 'If you leave him (your husband) you are going to make me do something I don't want to do,'" she said.

Although they were still afraid, all the women I spoke to were determined never to go back to their abusive families.

All of them wanted to make a new start in Britain, get an education and raise their children to reject the code of "honour" which had blighted their mothers lives.

Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour, BBC One, Monday, 19 March at 2030 and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.



SEE ALSO
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'Shocking' honour killing figures
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Britain's Crimes of Honour - useful contacts
Saturday, 17 March 2012, 16:06 GMT |  Panorama

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