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Activist launches new Honour Based Violence Awareness network


Denise Turner
WVoN co-editor

Last week human rights activists Deeyah and Joanne Payton of Cardiff University launched a new digital resource for honour killings and honour-based violence (HBV) through the   Honour Based Violence Awareness network (HBVA).

UK-based Deeyah was born to Pakistani and Afghan parents in Norway but was forced into exile and gave up her singing career after constant and sustained harassment from Islamic groups.

The HBVA website is an international digital resource centre working to advance understanding and awareness of honour killings and honour-based violence.

Resources include research, documentation and information for professionals such as teachers, health workers, social services, police, politicians and others who may encounter individuals at risk.

The four key areas are:

  • Awareness: an international HBV education resource and digital portal
  • Collaboration: convene a network of experts to collaborate on data sharing, knowledge and experience with the goal of understanding HBV globally
  • Training: producing materials for European and US professionals to improve responses to victims within immigrant diaspora communities
  • Research: conducting research to understand the extent, causes and risk factors of HBV and develop efficient and appropriate responses.

The site features international partners and collaborators from Pakistan, Iraq, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, India, Norway, Denmark, Bangladesh and Jordan.

HBVA experts include: Asma Jahangir, Yakin Erturk, John AustinRana HusseiniSerap CileliAyse Onal, Nazir Afzal, Unni Wikan.

The aim is to develop a network of experts, activists, and NGOs from around the world, establishing international partnerships to facilitate greater collaboration and education.

Over time it will provide an in-depth resource offering multi-media data and research materials about honour based violence.

HBV is a deep-rooted phenomenon that is no respecter of borders or religion. So far it has proved impossible to accurately record the number of honour killings, which HBVA estimates is 5000 per year.

The organisation acknowledges that its figures are inaccurate and this seems low compared with figures obtained by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in 2010, that show UK police recorded 2,823 honour attacks.

This represents a 47% rise over 2009 figures though it is possibly because, with growing resources and training materials such as those provided by HBVA, police are now more able to recognise, act and record incidents of HBV.

Also lessons have been learnt from the 2006 killing of Banaz Mahmod, an Iraqi Kurd from London. A 2008 Independent Police Complaints Commission report found that Ms Mahmod had been let down by police.

Her father, uncle and two cousins were convicted of her murder.  Prior to her murder Ms Mahmod told police that her father had tried to kill her but her account was dismissed as fantasy.

Yet the HBVA is hopeful that the global eradication of honour crimes is a possibility. Deeyah summarises the effect that greater awareness and training can have on professionals such as the police:

“Centuries-old cultures, customs, social structures and mentalities take time and effort to change.

“However, we can make a real and immediate impact, at least in Europe and the US, and deaths can be prevented, by implementing adequate training, providing research and properly informing those people in a position to help individuals at risk of HBV.

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  1. This is an important and useful news to us… Thanks to Womensviewsonnews for sharing this.. I run a Movement in India – Movement against Sexual Exploitation and Sexism…Our prime objective is to create awareness about the Parity in Gender Representation in Advertisements, Films & Other Mass Media…

  2. Wow, I just stumbled across this post by accident. I’ve always known that honour based violence is a subject area that isn’t documented and very much misunderstood but this site is the first step in raising awareness in dealing with this issue. Kudos to Deeyah and Joanne for their very informative website. I will share this with my friends. Does anybody know if they use twitter?

  3. vicki wharton says:

    Why can’t we refer to honour based violence as sexist violence, then it would get totalled in with domestic violence figures if those were also called sexist violence. Splitting crimes against women because they are women into honour and domestic categories and not referencing the attitude of the men that commit these crimes is a little like called racist murders street or sky crime – its disengenuous and a smoke screen to hide the real numbers and the appalling level of hatred and violence directed toward women by male members of their own families if they step out of their unpaid servant role.

  4. I think that lumping it in with other forms of violence against women could actually confuse the issue and may result in losing the truth of how often it occurs.

    The difficulty here is that these sorts of crimes are tied up with deep cultural, religious and social factors that perhaps require very specific handling.

    I would be concerned that by grouping all forms of what I agree is ‘sexist’ violence together, you simply end up with a bigger number and less understanding of what is going on and how to deal with it.

    • vicki wharton says:

      I’m not sure how simplifying the understanding of what drives crimes against women will result in losing the truth of how often a sexist attitude leads to violence against a women or girl? Yes, the cultural drivers that are involved in sexism are diverse, but I see it as similar to dangerous driving: there may be many reasons as to why a person drives dangerously but in the end the law recognises the result rather than spending vast amounts of energy defining the causes rather than prosecuting the offense. I suspect that we as women have taken our eye off the ball in a way that anti racists have not, they do not get bogged down in the minutia of classifying racist attacks by the cultural beliefs of the racists, they keep their focus on the fact that it was the victim’s race and the assailants attitude to that race that is the main driver of violent attacks. I think that leads to society taking a much more serious view of racist attack than it does currently of sexist attacks, which are hidden in a fog of domestic (location) or honour (cultural) drivers rather than pointing out that the underlying attitude is the belief that men own and are superior to women, which flies directly in the face of UK law. If we are all equal in the eyes of the law, then sexist attitudes enforced by violence in the home gets hidden behind descriptions of the violence that do not reference the common attitude that drives the violence and leads to more, not less understanding of the cause of the violence which is common to both domestic and honour violence, that of sexism. Those are my thoughts at the moment but I would welcome your feedback!

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