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Honour Crimes in the UK

How the harrowing crime goes largely unnoticed.

Honour crimes, often also in the form of honour killings, are committed by those who want to protect the reputation of their family or community, most of the time a family member, and is done to people accused of bringing shame to their family, most often females.  Crimes committed in the name of ‘honour’ include refusing an arranged marriage, entering a relationship with someone disapproved of, or behaving or dressing in a way that is seen as inappropriate (i.e. adopting western culture customs).

In the UK, up to 12 honour killings happen each year. They usually occur in South Asian and Middle Eastern families, and are related to tradition, not religion.

Apart from murder, honour crimes also include domestic abuse, threats of violence, sexual or psychological abuse, assault, and one of the most common cases of honour-based crimes is forced marriage, in which victims often suffer from conditions comparable to slavery.

Credit: John Alevroyiannis/Sunday Mirror

The police says that it is important that they focus on signs before the crimes happen, but in reality the signs tend to be ignored, for example in one of the most well-known cases in the UK, the murder of Banaz Mahmod who was in a relationship with a man her parents disapproved of. The murder was committed by her father and uncle, in an attempt to save the ‘honour’ of the family. The 20 year old contacted the police on several occasions before her death, and the police were criticised for not handling the situation correctly.

The police and other authorities often have difficulties understanding how to protect victims, so as a result, victims are often failed by the authorities. Politicians are too afraid to talk about honour-based crimes, because they fear being called racist. Another problem, according to the police, is that not enough victims report the crimes they suffer from.  During the last year there were 495 reports of forced marriage in London, 1,428 cases nationwide, and 5,105 reports of honour-based violence in the UK, which is an increase in reports, compared to the years before, but it is still presumed that this is just a fraction of the actual number of victims, which reports state is about 5% of the total number. A reason for the relatively low number of reports is the emotional relationship the victims have to their abusers since they are most often family members. Another reason could be the low rate of prosecutions and even less convictions that the abusers of the victims who reported their cases are facing. In less more is done by the authorities and charities in the UK more and more honour crimes will go unnoticed.

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