Kent Police is urging anyone suffering honour-based abuse to come forward and report the crime as the UK commemorates victims with a national day of remembrance.

Honour-based abuse is a complex and under-reported crime where victims may not be confident to come forward through fear of repercussions within their families and communities. The type of treatment can include forced marriage, domestic abuse whether it be physical, financial, sexual or emotional. Threats, pressure to move abroad, being trapped at home with no freedom and being denied access to important documents like your passport or birth certificate. It can also include being isolated from friends and family members.

Friday, 14 July 2023, was a national day of remembrance to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to this type of abuse, including Shafilea Ahmed from Bradford who was murdered almost twenty years ago in Warrington by her parents in an honour-based killing.

Charity, Karma Nirvana, set up this remembrance day, which takes place every year and would have been Shafilea’s birthday. Kent Police is taking this moment to urge people across the county to report incidents to the police.  

These crimes are usually committed by people who think they are defending the honour of their family or community. They may think someone has brought shame on them by behaving in a certain way and think it is their right to hand out punishments for breaking their ‘honour’ code.

Kent Police is reminding people that this not something that should be accepted, it is illegal and officers will do everything within their powers to investigate allegations in a sensitive and compassionate way.

Force marriage is just one example of honour-based abuse and is not the same as arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, people always have a choice about whether they get married or not. Forced marriage is when at least one party is unwilling or unable to consent.

Everyone has the right to choose who they marry, when they marry and whether or not they want to get married. Ultimately there is no excuse, cultural or otherwise, and no religion condones forced marriage. Anyone who pressures someone into marriage is breaking the law and can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

Many victims are reluctant to come forward because they are afraid of what will happen to them if their families find out or because they do not want to see their parents or family members prosecuted for what they have done. Officers at Kent Police will always take the victims’ wishes into account and whilst they will always seek to prosecute, they will also ensure victims are safeguarded and will put them in touch with charities and partner agencies who can help.

Detective Chief Superintendent Emma Banks, Head of Protecting Vulnerable People Command, said: ‘The views and wishes of victims is always at the heart of our decision-making, and those who come forward do not always do so because they want those responsible to be prosecuted. It may be they want to stop something like a forced marriage going ahead or get access to other support services.

‘A Forced Marriage Protection Order can be used to protect someone at risk of being forced into marriage, or who has already been forced into marriage. It will be designed to protect you according to your individual circumstances, like stopping someone taking you out of the UK, and anyone who breaches an order can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

‘Officers undergo training to spot the signs of forced marriage and other related offences including honour-based violence and female genital mutilation.

‘Last year we recorded 71 reports of crime where honour-based abuse may have been a factor. These low numbers show that crimes like this are hidden and under-reported. They also largely affect women and girls although can happen to anyone of any age, gender or background and we are committed to helping raise awareness and show victims what support is available.’

Kent Police regularly works with partner agencies, charities and communities to encourage victims to come forward and not to suffer in silence, and officers regularly engage with affected communities at events such as religious festivals. The force also participates in annual awareness-raising events.

  • If you or someone you know is at immediate risk then dial 999. You can also report concerns online via the Kent Police website or visit in person. Kent Police can arrange to meet you at a time that is safe and convenient, and you will be put in contact with one of our specialist safeguarding officers who will help explain the investigation process and support you as it progresses.
  • Language is not a barrier. If English is not your first language, translation services are available.

By Ed

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