Harrowing new figures have shown a rising number of victims of so-called ‘honour crimes’ coming forward amid campaigning efforts to raise awareness.
Reports of honour based abuse have risen four-fold in West Yorkshire since 2015, police figures reveal, with reports of forced marriages trebling in this time.
Leading charities, revealing they too have seen a 40 per cent rise in calls for help in the area in the past year, say massive steps are being taken by agencies prepares to tackle the issues. But experts say still more can be done nationally to ease the stigma and eliminate a persistent belief that such abuse is acceptable in any form.
“There needs to be more education around choice and consent,” said Natasha Rattu from charity Karma Nirvana. “A lot of victims that contact us don’t realise they are being forced to marry - they say it’s an arranged marriage that they don’t want.”
A major effort in raising the profile of issues is seeing results, the region’s policing lead for forced marriage has said, amid a steep rise in the number of people coming forward.
Honour crime reports rose from 44 in March 2015 to 176 in 2017. At the same time, reports of forced marriage trebled, from 90 to 266. West Yorkshire Police says it is encouraging that people feel more confident in coming forward, and that it is committed to this issue as a priority.
The force has now revealed details of the number of forced marriage protection orders to safeguard victims recorded since new laws were introduced. A total of 33 orders were recorded in 2016, and 49 in 2017.
“There is no honour in any form of abuse,” said Detective Chief Inspector Fran Naughton, Central Safeguarding Governance Unit. “We are trying to get the message across that, regardless of what someone may have been told by their family, everyone has the right to choose and forcing someone to marry against their will is a crime.”
Forced marriage is a priority for the force, DCI Naughton said, with safeguarding units in every district. Recently, the force joined partners in pledging to continually improve support for those at risk.
“In these types of cases, the views of the victim are taken seriously as to whether to prosecute and can ultimately be a deciding factor,” she said. “We often see that victims do not want to prosecute their family, but our aim is to make sure the victim has the necessary support and above all, is safe.”
Police in West Yorkshire are among partners including Leeds City Council, the NHS and crime commissioner who have signed a pledge to commit to challenge these issues.
“We are working to raise awareness of forced marriage; both for those working in schools, airports and other settings where early signs could be spotted, but also among those at risk,” said DCI Naughton. “Awareness is key so that anyone who is concerned knows how they can seek help for themselves or someone they know.”