The tip of the iceberg

Lots of girls calling for help.

Hundreds of children fearing for their lives have called a new national helpline set up to assist victims of forced marriages since its launch four months ago…Many are seeking ways to escape parents and family members who are trying to force them into unwanted marriages. Others have said they fear becoming victims of so-called “honour killings”, because of social and sexual behaviour that their community disapproves of.

A small but nevertheless significant point – if a ‘community’ disapproves of various forms of innocuous social and sexual behaviour enough to motivate killing the people who engage in it, then that ‘community’ is not ‘their community,’ and it’s misleading to call it that. It sounds cozy and loving and protective and, you know, communal, in a good way. But it isn’t any of that, is it – not if it’s so controlling and so puritanical that it prompts some people to murder female relatives. So newspapers should stop calling it that. They should say something blunter and more neutral – their neighbours disapprove of, their co-religionists disapprove of, their parents’ friends disapprove of; something like that.

Run by the refuge charity Karma Nirvana and initially funded by the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, the network is staffed by survivors of forced marriages who help find refuges for women who predominantly hail from Britain’s south Asian and Middle Eastern communities. According to Jasvinder Sanghera, who was disowned by her family for refusing a forced marriage and went on to set up Karma Nirvana, the youngest caller to the new helpline was 13. “We have to move away from thinking that forced marriages and honour-based violence only affect a few people,” she said. “These numbers will be just the tip of the iceberg.”…When asked to name who was responsible for violence against them, just 13 per cent of victims mentioned husbands, while 71 per cent blamed immediate family. “For me this is one of the most shocking, but insightful statistics,” said Ms Sanghera. “It shows how violence is being perpetrated by the entire community, not just abusive husbands. That’s why it is so hard to tackle and so difficult for people to escape.”

It’s the entire community, and not ‘their’ community; more like their jailer. If it were really ‘their’ community they wouldn’t need to escape.

10 Responses to “The tip of the iceberg”