Karma Nirvana is extremely concerned about the potential consequences of the private members bill, namely to prohibit the use of the term “honour” in official publications.
This aspect of the bill is counterintuitive to the progression of work undertaken by NGOs and the government in the field of Honour Based Abuse (HBA), and will at the very core leave victims at further danger.
Karma Nirvana is unclear as to what experience Nusrat Ghani has in the field HBA, specifically supporting victims and engaging with frontline professionals; however it is very clear that the proposals within the bill have not been informed by the voice of victims, survivors and frontline professionals.
Karma Nirvana has 24 years’ experience in supporting victims and survivors of HBA and of assisting professionals supporting these victims. We have in the last year trained over 1,000 professionals nationally, including police officers and social workers on the frontline. It is evident through our expertise,the findings of the recent HMIC HBA inspection and previous HASC on Domestic Abuse, HBA and Forced Marriage that professionals require more understanding, knowledge and confidence to improve responses provided to victims.
The use of the term “honour” is not to provide any justification for abuse, but to be able to identify the motivation of the abuse. As evidenced in the recent HMIC HBA inspection, the context of honour based abuse is usually more complicated and different to domestic abuse. As such it is imperative that professionals dealing with this abuse understand the motivation for it to be able to, within that context, provide specific and bespoke approaches to protect a victim.
If this bill is passed, it will lead to professionals having less understanding, knowledge and confidence on the issues and complexities that HBA presents to victims of this abuse. This will result in poorer responses being provided to victims, and ultimately victims being less likely to come forward and being held within dangerous situations. The impact of HBA can be devastating (and potentially fatal) if services fail to recognise indicators of risks within the context of HBA and do not respond appropriately to protect victims. The untimely death of Banaz Mahmod has been a prime example of what such failures can lead to.
Another concern regarding the passing of this bill is that it compounds what is already recognised nationally to be a hidden crime. If we do not use the term “honour” to identify HBA, statutory agencies will not flag its occurrence leading to poor identification of the nature and scale of this issue.
This presents a real concern as there is already a lack of intelligence and data on the prevalence of HBA which this bill will only exacerbate. If cases cannot be easily identified, victims will not be protected appropriately and professionals will not be able to audit cases and learn lessons. This will also impair a police forces ability to understand the levels of HBA incidents and crimes in its area, which will in turn reduce the prioritisation of this issue on their agenda. This would be a grave concern given the highly vulnerable nature of victims of HBA.
In our experience, victims of HBA will only be protected when professionals understand the experiences unique to victims of this abuse. We know that HBA by its very nature is hidden and that the data presently available only provides the tip of the iceberg to the extent of this problem. It is the aggravating element of perceived “honour” that shapes the context of the abuse, compounding risks to the victim. Professionals need to have greater awareness of this to enhance professional confidence and thus improve responses.
Karma Nirvana welcomes dialogue with Nusrat Ghani so that the bill can be reformed to reflect the experiences of victims and survivors of HBA.