World

BBC Drama Sheds Light On Underreported Honor Crimes

| by Nik Bonopartis
A victim of domestic violence in PakistanA victim of domestic violence in Pakistan

While U.K. authorities field thousands of complaints about honor crimes every year, thousands more may be unreported, according to BBC News.

Honor crimes, honor killings and shame killings are all related, with roots in Islamic and Asian countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. An honor killing is the killing of a person, usually a woman, by their own relatives who are motivated by the belief that the victim has brought shame onto the family.

Honor crimes include murder, rape, gang rape, abduction, torture and other forms of assault, usually brought on when the victim defies a religious or cultural norm, according to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality.

Women can become the victims of honor killings by refusing arranged marriages, or when they are accused of adultery, premarital sex or even being raped.

In July 2015, the U.K. government released new figures that showed authorities handled 11,744 honor crime cases between 2010 and 2014, according to BBC News. These cases in the U.K. involved crimes like forced marriage and genital mutilation.

Advocates for women and others who combat the practice of honor crimes say that figure is low.

"Unfortunately they [the figures] do not show the real extent of the problem," Diana Nammi, director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, told BBC News. "So many crimes are unreported because the perpetrators are often the victim's own family."

Honor crimes and honor killings that do get reported often come to the attention of law enforcement too late for the victims. A story in Newsweek detailed the case of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed, a British teenager who went missing in 2003. It wasn't until 2004, when her body was discovered, that police began an investigation that eventually led to Ahmed's parents.

Ahmed's parents said their daughter had brought "shame" on their family by dressing like a Western teenager, maintaining friendships with boys and refusing an arranged marriage. Her parents were each sentenced to 25 years in prison for murdering their daughter.

BBC hopes to shed more light on the issue with a new docudrama, "Murdered By My Father." The drama, which is available to stream online, follows the story of Salma, a 16-year-old British girl whose father expects her to go along with a prearranged marriage.

Jasvinder Sanghera is founder of the charity Karma Nirvana, which helps girls and women forced into arranged marriages. Sanghera, who consulted on the BBC docudrama, told Newsweek she ran away to escape an arranged marriage at 16, and was disowned by her family.

“You grow up and realize your life is very different from your mates," Sanghera said. "The concept of being born in Britain—being able to integrate and embrace independence, rights, democracy—actually is the totally opposite of your life behind the front door. It’s as if you’re living in Britain but behind the front door living in rural India."

"Murdered By My Father" is available to stream for free via BBC.

Sources: ChristianToday, BBC, Newsweek / Photo credit: Pakistan Express Tribune

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