Honour killing on the rise in Europe
LONDON: Known cases of murder and rape committed to avenge a family’s honour are on the rise across Europe, forcing police to explore the reasons behind such crimes and ways to stop them, officials said on Tuesday.
At a two-day conference in London, British police have been spearheading a campaign to fight so-called honour-based violence, typically committed against women to protect a family’s reputation.
The problem is greatest in Islamic communities in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, but it has spread as families migrate, bringing their traditional values with them.
“This is a long, long journey that we are embarking on,” said Laura Richards, head of the homicide prevention unit at London’s Metropolitan Police.
“We have taken the first step of that journey but there are barriers,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the conference, organised by the police and Britain’s interior ministry, that was concluding Tuesday.
British authorities have started to properly recognise honour crimes over the past three years, but it is a problem that affected countries throughout Europe, where police are only just becoming aware, according to Richards.
“It is in all communities, all cultures, so we have got to start to get upstream with it not just in the UK but across the board,” she said.
“We know from the case studies that (honour-based violence in Europe) has increased fairly significantly.”
Sweden, which like Britain has a large migrant population, is the only other country with an advanced system to tackle honour-based violence, but an increasing number of governments are expressing an interest.
“Denmark, Norway and certain other countries are just starting... to look at their own information to see if there is a problem,” said Richards.
“Previously, people have said that there is not a problem, but I would challenge that and say: ‘Have you actually looked?’,”she said.
“If you look you will see very different things going on to what you thought initially.”
The British police are studying 109 possible honour killings, including one in Sweden, to try to understand the complex nature of a crime, which is usually perpetrated by families against relatives who are believed to have caused them shame often by breaking a community’s strict moral codes.
They have produced guidelines to train officers on how to spot signs of honour-linked violence, including domestic violence, forced marriage, suspicious suicides and traffic accidents and missing persons.
In London alone, the Metropolitan Police reported 492 cases linked to forced marriage, but Richards said the data only tells a fraction of the story.
“I think we are just at the tip on the iceberg,” she said. afp