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News 2008
News ->British honour killng inquiry follows Asian girl's murder

UK 'HONOUR KILLING' INQUIRY LAUNCHED
By Dipankar De Sarkar, London, Jan 15 (IANS)

Shafileah AhmedThe British parliament is to launch a public consultation into forced marriages and 'honour crimes', MPs said after a coroner ruled that a teenage Asian girl who rebelled against her family's bid to push her into marriage was probably murdered. The six-week online inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee hopes to hear from survivors of all forms of physical and psychological abuse, including domestic abuse, forced marriages and so-called honour crimes.



As is the usual policy process in Britain, the committee will draw up a series of recommendations based on the consultation, which will be open to all. The recommendations will inform the government on how best to tackle the issues. The initiative, announced by committee chairman and Asian MP Keith Vaz Monday, came after a coroner at an inquest last week ruled that an Asian teenager who was being forced into an arranged marriage by her Pakistani parents was the victim of a "very vile murder".

The decomposed body of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed was found near the bank of the River Kent in Cumbria, five months after her schoolteachers reported her missing in September 2003, soon after she returned from a trip to Pakistan. Shafilea's tragic case was widely reported in Britain and has evoked strong sympathy for young second generation Asian women who are forced into marriages.

Coroner Ian Smith also said he believed the concept of an arranged marriage was "central" to the circumstances leading up to her death.

Police had earlier launched a murder inquiry and arrested her parents on suspicion of kidnapping her, but both were released without charge. Eight other family members from Bradford were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, but they too were released without charge.

At her inquest, a social worker responsible for providing housing said Shafilea had come to her seeking advice, claiming she had been beaten and robbed by her parents.

A statement Shafilea wrote to support a housing claim said: "I had saved £2,000, which they took out of my bank account. My parents are going to send me to Pakistan and I'll be married to someone and left there. There had been a build-up of violence towards me, and my mother told me I was about to go to Pakistan for an arranged marriage."

Vaz, launching the parliamentary initiative Monday, said the voices of victims of forced marriage and "honour crimes" were "not often enough heard". He said domestic violence - whether by a relative, spouse or partner - constituted about 15% of all violent crime and killed two women every week in England and Wales. "Huge numbers of women and men are affected daily by these crimes. Yet their voices are not often enough heard," he said.

"We want to listen to those who have experienced domestic abuse and forced marriage, since they know better than anyone else what works and what doesn't. What they say in the consultation will help us decide our recommendations to the government," added the MP whose Leicester East constituency has a large Asian population.

About 12 people each year are thought to be victims of so-called honour killings in Britain, after supposedly behaving in a way that brings shame to their families. A Forced Marriage Unit at the British Home Ministry receives 5,000 inquiries a year and handles 300 cases. The government is also consulting experts on new immigration rules to stop forced marriages.

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of the Muslim Parliament in Britain, said he was certain the schoolgirl, who wanted to go to university and become a lawyer, was the victim of an honour killing. "I think relatives won't speak out because they are scared," he said. "Somebody in the family disappears, relatives must have been concerned. But they would not cooperate with the police. The family and those who were close were not willing to come forward. That's why many of these murders are unresolved."

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