Police in the United Kingdom are under scrutiny for their efforts to tackle honor-based abuse, including forced marriage, after a sharp drop in the number of offenses recorded.
According to new data provided to the government, recorded offenses that were flagged as honor-based fell from 5,595 to 2,024—a dramatic drop of 64 percent.
In addition to forced marriage, which represented 140 of these recorded crimes, honor-based abuse encompasses female genital mutilation (FGM), assault, and murder.
Natasha Rattu, who heads Freedom United partner organization Karma Nirvana, called the new data “hugely worrying” and said that her own organization’s data show that honor-based abuse has actually increased.
According to Rattu, the data reflect the police’s failure to identify and record honor-based abuse, and attributed this to low awareness and a lack of government leadership on the issue.
The Independent reports:
Ms Rattu, whose charity runs a national helpline, said: “When a victim presents to police, if police identify the abuse is honour related or motivated, they will flag it on their system.
“But this is now happening less. It is not that honour-based abuse is occurring less. We are seeing a year on year increase in honour-based abuse in reports to the national honour abuse helpline which you would hope would be reflected in reports to police.
“There are multiple reasons why it is not recorded. There is not enough training, also issues with police thinking ‘this doesn’t affect me’ or their fears around being culturally insensitive, othering victims, and not understanding honour-based abuse is a form of domestic abuse. Victims need to feel if they come forward they will be understood.”
According to a 2015 inspection, only three out of 43 police forces in the U.K. were “prepared” for “protecting people from harm” related to honor-based abuse.
Karma Nirvana has called twice for re-inspection, including in October, but its requests have not been accepted.
For victims of forced marriage and other forms of honor-based abuse, police failures on the issue actively exacerbate it by discouraging victims from coming forward.
Dame Vera Baird QC, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, noted that coming forward already takes “massive courage”—making it particularly important for victims to have trust in the police.
Meanwhile, campaigners around the world have sounded the alarm over the pandemic’s impact on forced marriage, with Karma Nirvana reporting a 57 percent increase in calls while the U.K. was in lockdown.
Freedom United has been vocal in the movement against forced marriage in the U.K., gathering over 180,000 signatures on our petition urging the government to ban child marriage and protect girls from forced marriage.
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