The girls we betray

Julie Bindel on “honor” crimes against women such as Rahaf al-Qunun:

It is just the latest example of the fear and abuse many women experience in communities in which ‘honour-based violence’ is the norm. This is nothing short of a disgrace – and the fact that so many police and prosecutors take a ‘softly, softly approach’ shows us the level or cowardice and incompetence in dealing with this issue.

Honour-based violence is the most extreme end of an ideology that says female sexuality should be totally controlled by men. In England and Wales, there were 137,000 women and girls affected by female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2015, and last year the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit provided support in well over 1,000 cases.

Women and girls are seen as something like a gaping hole in the wall of a house, that can let in all sorts of bad stuff – mud, rats, thieves, syphilis.

UK police forces recorded 11,744 honour-based crimes between 2010 and 2014, including forced marriage, FGM, sexual and physical assault, and murder. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of incidents reported to the police increased by 53%. And given that honour crimes are often unreported, these figures are likely to underestimate the true scale of abuse. Shockingly, in 2016/17 just 5% of incidents were referred by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service, the lowest in five years.

So I guess the other 95% were just…family turmoil? Nobody else’s business?

The first murder in the EU that was recognised as honour-based violence was that of Fadime Sahindal in 2002. She was 26 when her father shot her in the head during a visit to her mother. Fadime, whose family moved to Sweden from a small village in Turkey, had fallen in love with a Swedish man named Patrik. Her father had discovered the relationship and was appalled that she had chosen for herself a man outside of her culture and religion. The case highlight how women from these cultures are treated like chattel; nothing more than goods to be owned and traded.

Fadime’s case helped Sweden recognise the dangers women face from communities that impose strict sanctions on them. Fadime was threatened endlessly by her father for four years. Then one day he saw her with Patrik in the street and attacked her, spitting in her face and shouting: “Bloody whore. I will beat you to pieces.” He murdered his daughter in cold blood. It is mainly because of Fadime that Sweden is the centre of an EU-supported cross-European project on honour crime.

That’s probably why a humanist publisher in Sweden did a translation of Does God Hate Women? They take an interest.

In 2006, the Swedish Liberal politician Nyamko Sabuni popularised the campaign against honour crime when she published her book The Girls We Betray. As integration and equalities minister until 2010, Sabuni was responsible for producing the government’s first action plan for honour crime.

As well as denouncing what she deemed the “honour culture” of some immigrant groups, Sabuni proposed banning the veil for girls under the age of 15, compulsory medical examinations to check for FGM, outlawing arranged marriages and ending state funding of religious schools.

And so, of course, she was called “Islamophobic.”

When I write about religious and cultural oppression of Muslim women, including honour crime, I am routinely accused of inciting ‘Islamophobia’. I press ahead regardless, taking my lead from the numerous Muslim-born feminist campaigners that also rail against the niqab, FGM, and forced marriage. Meanwhile, many white liberals, including some politicians and criminal justice agents, shy away.

But change is slowly taking place, thanks to feminists and other human rights campaigners such as Iranian-exile Maryam Namazie, who tirelessly fights against the normalisation of sharia imposed on Muslim-born women in the UK.

Somebody has to.

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