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BBC Panorama Honour Crime Survey

A survey of young British Asians conducted on behalf of BBC Panorama.

Date Published: 19 Mar 2012

Categories: Public and communities | Social | UK


Britain’s Crimes of Honour – Panorama
Monday, March 19th 8.30pm BBC One

A poll commissioned by BBC Panorama suggests that  more than two-thirds of young Asians (69%) living in Great Britain agree families should live according to the concept of ‘honour’ - or ‘izzat’ - with 18% of those interviewed agreeing specific acts by a woman seen as bringing her family dishonour were reasonable justification for physical punishment . 

This long-standing tradition among south Asian and Middle Eastern communities sees a woman’s behaviour as central to the honour of her family. But campaigners believe thousands of crimes are being committed against women in its name, leading to violent assaults, suicides and murder.

A recent survey of Police Force statistics (source: Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation) recorded over 2,800 honour crimes each year – nearly eight every day.  But prosecutors say the real  figure is probably much higher with the number of ‘honour killings’ at around 10 to 12 a year.

For tonight’s Panorama – Britain’s Crimes of Honour - Jane Corbin investigates attitudes to ‘honour’. She hears from victims and their families and those working to help women at risk such as prosecutors and the Police.

Nazir Afzal, the lead prosecutor on honour crime for the Crown Prosecution Service,  tells the programme:
“We don’t know the true figure of honour killings. It’s anything between 10 and 12 a year in this country.
“I don’t know how many other unmarked graves there are in our green and pleasant land, I don’t know. And that suggests to me that we’re underestimating this issue.”

Jasvinder Sanghera, of Karma Nirvana, set up a helpline for women at risk of honour based violence.  They receive around 500 calls a month but she says this is the tip of the iceberg.

At 14, Jasvinder was imprisoned in her bedroom after refusing to marry a man she had never met. She explains what honour meant for her:
“I was conditioned to learn that from a very young age, it is dishonourable to make eye contact with men, sit with men. And the rules shift and change as you get older, you’re not allowed to have boyfriends, been seen talking to the opposite sex, to cut your hair, wear makeup. You are taught these are all dishonourable acts of behaviour.”

But are attitudes to honour and the role it plays in families changing?  Nazir Afzal comments:
“I thought this was a generational thing, it was something that would die out with my generation. Unfortunately, I’ve come across many young people who think the same way.”

Panorama commissioned a poll to find out about the attitudes of the younger generation.

Of the 500 Asians, aged between 16 and 34, interviewed by ComRes:
• Two thirds (69%) agree that families should live according to the concept of ‘honour’, or ‘izzat’
•  Young Asian men (75%) are more likely than young Asian women (63%) to agree that families should live according to the concept of ‘honour’, or ‘izzat’
• 16-24 year-old Asians (73%) are more likely than 25-34 year-olds (64%) to agree that families should live according to concept of honour
• While just 6% say that in certain circumstances it can be right to physically punish a female member of the family if she brings dishonour, when presented with a list of possible reasons 18% actually say at least one is reasonable justification. Reasons ranged from disobeying a father (8%), marrying someone unacceptable (7%) or wanting to end a marriage (7%). Young Asian women are just as likely as young Asian men to say they should be punished.

However, the poll also found that just 3% of young Asians think there is ever a justification for so called ‘honour killings’ while 94% do not think that there is ever a justification.

Nazir Afzal feels the situation needs to be confronted despite the risk of upsetting communities:
“It needs to be said the vast majority that we see involve the Muslim community of which I’m a member. My view is there’s no place for multicultural sensitivity in this situation...This is something that we cannot tolerate. The moment that I stop looking at a community because somebody tells me it’s too sensitive, is the moment I pack up my file and walk out the door.”

But Jasvinder tells Jane there is a reluctance to tackle issues around the honour code:
 “I’ve yet to see community leaders; religious leaders, politicians, Asian councillors [or] politicians give real leadership on this. They don’t because they know it makes them unpopular. They know this is happening and to know that significant abuse in your communities is happening and not to demonstrate real leadership on this is extremely irresponsible, it’s morally wrong and it’s morally blind.”

ComRes interviewed 500 Asians, aged between 16 and 34 and living in Great Britain between 23rd and 27th February 2012. These data were compared to a similar survey of 500 Asians, aged between 16 and 34 and living in GB carried out in August 2006. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

To qualify as Asian, interviewees had to identify themselves as being from one of the following communities:
Mixed Asian
Other Asian

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