July this year will mark two years since the death of Samia Shahid. The BBC2 documentary that aired last week, “Murdered for love?” illustrated the devastation, frustration and confusion that is caused by these types of devastating crimes of control. Crime based on so-called ‘honour’ leave in their wake irreparable damage for those that are close to the victims.
As was said in that documentary, “If today we let this go with Samia, it could be anybody tomorrow,” I hope that in seeking justice for Samia we have helped to bring to light these archaic crimes. It is my hope that by further empowering women within our communities, we can move beyond all forms of control based crimes.
The case of Samia highlights the most extreme manifestation of ‘honour-based violence’, or in this instance, what I prefer to call a crime driven by a man’s shame – “shame-based violence” – and this was murder. But, we also have to recognise that while the majority of us live with immense freedom, some face undue pressure and control. We must continue to seek and root out the other types of control based crimes, we cannot and must not accept casual coercive behaviour or control. We must continue to raise the issues of forced marriage and abuse.
As communities we need to have a discussion about what a good relationship looks like. That it is not ok for parents and families to “make your choice for you without your consent,” whether that be through emotional blackmail and family pressure or outright power and control. A marriage is about two people coming together to spend the rest of their lives together.
Love, trust and respect are fundamental cornerstones which weave a couple together, providing the foundation for children and people’s role in the wider family and society. If this starts with fear and intimidation, it does not provide the security needed and is setting people up to fail. This is about people’s whole lives, their future and their happiness. To live a life to your full potential free of fear is every human’s birth right and we must respect it as such.
Recently during my visit to Pakistan I met with the British Foreign Office who raised with me the fact that very few referrals for forced marriage cases come from Bradford. A forced marriage is illegal in both Pakistan and the UK but sadly 43% of all calls to the forced marriage hotline are still in relation to the Pakistani diaspora. Whilst it’s nice to think that Bradford’s low referral rate is a sign that our community has moved on from these type of crimes, we know anecdotally that unfortunately this is not the case.
Let’s be clear, forced marriages destroy families. It breaks the bond of trust between the generations, and that bond never fully returns.
I want to use this opportunity to make it clear that anyone who is facing this type of abuse will be supported. There is help available and if you can reach out for yourself or on behalf of people you know who may be dealing with these issues then the Forced Marriage Unit can offer support and help put you in touch with other organisations if necessary. They can be contacted on 020 70080151 or by email at email@example.com
The Muslim Women’s Network UK also have a helpline which can be accessed 0800 999 5786
And further details can be found on their website www.mwnhelpline.co.uk
I am also always here should anyone need help and support and will always do my best to support you. My email is Naz.firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office on 01274725171.
Samia’s death is symbolic of the fact that we still have work to do. It is symbolic of the struggle of women and women’s rights. We need to get to a stage where violence against women is violence against women regardless of the culture. And in the words of Mary Wollstonecraft “I do not wish them (women) to have power over men, but over themselves”.