So-called Honour Based Violence (HBV) – The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) defines HBV as “a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community”. ACPO‟s guidance to forces on tackling HBV suggests that under-reporting might be an issue, and that there is still much to be achieved if victims are to feel empowered to come forward and seek help. HMIC proposes conducting an inspection to examine this complex and sensitive area of under-reported serious crime, how far the police are aware of it and how well they are tackling it.
This is good news. Today I was just updating my lecture on Policing Honour-Based Violence (which is due on Tuesday) and thinking about how far we have come. In 2007, File on 4 depicted the policing of HBV mired in political disagreements, stymied by fear of upsetting political sensitivities. Since then, and with no little thanks to the success of Deeyah’s documentary, exposing the policing failures of the Banaz case, and IKWRO‘s persistence in collating Freedom of Information request data to show regional shortfalls, HBV has effectively become mainstreamed into VAWG strategies, and this will ensure that there is some scrutiny of which forces are failing women in their regions.
One blatant failing was found in the recent documentary 24 Hours in Police Custody, where police consulted with a so-called ‘community leader’ on an individual case. This is dangerous behaviour, since the sharing of sensitive information beyond a need-to-know basis where HBV is indicated is a very bad idea indeed. Furthermore, it’s discriminatory: why do women and girls from one community require patriarchal interventions from ‘community leaders’ whereas others are presumed to be independent? The take-me-to-your-leader model of multiculturalism is a failure, presenting Islamists as spokesmen for Islam, presenting up patriarchal communitarianism as ‘authentic’, and systematically ignoring activist women in favour of men who continue to deny and conceal the extent of violence, abuse and oppression with ‘their’ communities: the source of the same political sensitivities that led to the development of policing HBV to be tied up for years, until the death of Banaz Mahmod shook British complacency.
Let us hope that HMIC keep a sense of perspective about the kinds of police outreach that are productive with the kinds that are discriminatory, essentialising and dangerous.