Increased collaboration and communication between local and national government, police forces and both statutory and voluntary services will be vital in the fight to eradicate ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and other harmful practices in the UK, according to Savera UK.
The leading charity, which tackles culturally-specific abuse such as HBA, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), recently hosted a panel event discussing gaps in the Domestic Abuse Act, which may leave migrant women and those at risk of HBA unsupported.
The panel included the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, Merseyside Police Deputy Chief Constable, Ian Critchley QPM, survivor and campaigner, Saliha Rashid, as well as Savera UK founder and CEO, Afrah Qassim and Nazir Afzal OBE, former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West and Patron of the charity.
Speaking of the Domestic Abuse Act, which was given royal assent in April, Afrah said: “We want to celebrate and welcome the Domestic Abuse Act, which is changing the way we tackle domestic abuse within our country. However, it is another law that has excluded Migrant Women and survivors of ‘honour’-based abuse and the voluntary organisations that support them, meaning many at risk are falling through the net, unable to find or access support, or are afraid to for fear of detention, deportation or destitution.”
Addressing the lack of specific acknowledgement of migrant women and ‘honour’-based abuse in law, Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, highlighted the importance of voluntary organisations supporting them and identified both as a focus for her office, outside of the Domestic Abuse Act.
A consultation on the statutory guidance that will run alongside the domestic abuse was launched on Tuesday 3rd August and will remain open until 14th September. Speaking of this consultation at the event she said: “We should expect a very substantial section of that guidance to address so-called ‘honour’-based abuse. This kind of guidance at a local level is critical for organisations like Savera UK as it gives clear guidance of what is expected in relation to these issues.”
Regarding the issue of funding for voluntary organisations, Nicole also highlighted a number of other consultations, including one on the provision of community-based services, the outcomes of which would be used to influence the next government spending review.
The event featured the testimony and stories of survivors supported by Savera UK and the launch of the charity’s ‘One Chance Rule’ video, which provides advice to individuals and professionals on how to respond to a disclosure of ‘honour’-based abuse or other harmful practices, where that disclosure will usually be the only chance to keep the person at risk safe and alive.
The video was lauded by Nicole as an “important and useful tool for everyone” and also supported by survivor and campaigner Saliha Rashid, who said: “We need to continue having these conversations, following the One Chance Rule and listening. Listening and believing what survivors and those at risk are saying.”
Providing a voice not just for survivors, but also the organisations that support them was also highlighted as a key focus during the event. Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, who has vowed to prioritise ending violence against women and girls in the city, praised multi-agency work already taking place in the city and highlighted the need for voluntary sector organisations to be involved in the conversations around the issue.
She said: “We need to ask where the voluntary sector sits in this mix. Our voluntary sector deliver important services that change people’s lives and enable them to be free from living in fear of violence. In all the work that I do, I want to empower and build up our community organisations.”
She added “While I am Mayor of Liverpool, I will do everything to ensure we keep up momentum around this and build on the good work that is already being done in the community.”
Speaking of the importance of collaboration and partnership working, DCC Ian Critchley QPM said: “I have a privileged role to ensure that we police in a way that provides confidence in communities in Merseyside. To do this we invest in training, recruitment and partnerships. The strength that we have is in coming together and working together to prevent these appalling acts, give confidence to people to come forward for help and making a huge difference to safety in Merseyside.”
Recent statistics from Merseyside Police show that in the 12 months from April 2020 – March 2021, 30 incidents of ‘honour’-based abuse were reported to the force. Even fewer incidents of Forced Marriage and FGM were reported, indicating that under-reporting of ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices remains an issue in the region.
There are currently 22 FGM Protection Orders in place in Merseyside, protecting 28 girls, and 32 Forced Marriage Protection Orders, protecting 62 people. The force also noticed a reduction in the number of protective orders issued in June and July last year, which coincided with the closure of schools during lockdown. While these figures provide part of the picture locally, the true number of those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse is not known due to the hidden nature of these crimes.
Savera UK’s discussion event took place on the national Day of Memory, which is held annually on July 14th to remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings and HBA. The date was Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday, but in 2003,17-year-old Shafilea was murdered by her parents for refusing a forced marriage and becoming ‘too westernised’, in the eyes of her family and community.