In the media
Compulsory lessons urged on forced marriage and 'honour' violence
Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent
Friday June 13 2008
Lessons about "honour"-based violence and forced marriage should be an explicit statutory requirement in British schools and become a compulsory part of the sex and relationships curriculum, MPs said today.
A report from the all-party home affairs select committee said education on these issues seemed to be "at best variable, and at worst nonexistent", with some schools apparently resistant to discussing them, owing to fear of offending parents and communities. It said there was evidence to suggest that children were in danger of being removed from school or further education and forced into marriage.
The committee acknowledged the significant steps taken to stop domestic and "honour"-based violence; however, it criticised the government's disproportionate focus on the criminal justice system.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "We are still failing victims in different ways: through a shortage of refuge space; through the ignorance or disbelief of professionals; or by allowing the continued abuse of some of those forced into marriage by granting visas to their spouses."
There needed to be a shift in focus towards education, prevention and early intervention, he added. "We educate our young people about the dangers of drugs or road safety but not, it seems, about domestic and 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage, which will affect a quarter of all women in their lifetime and many men too."
Posters and other publicity material should be sent out to schools by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, rather than waiting for a specific request from teachers, the report said.
The MPs also suggested there should be a wide-ranging public education campaign about all the issues involved in domestic violence, along the lines of a road safety campaign, and that doctors and nurses should undergo training in identifying victims of domestic violence.
Other recommendations include a specialised victim protection programme, similar to witness protection, for women fleeing "honour"-based violence and refusing visa applications in the case of reluctant brides or bridegrooms.
Domestic violence cost the UK £25.3bn in 2005-06 in terms of expenses incurred on public services, losses to the economy and costs to the victim, the report said, with the true cost likely to be much higher as not all crimes are reported to police.
Yesterday saw the second in a series of national roadshows organised by the government to tackle "honour"-based violence. The event, in Cambridge, brought together police, officials from the Crown Prosecution Service and charities to raise awareness of the problem.
The Home Office minister Vernon Coaker described "honour"-based violence as a "heinous crime" that had no place in society. "I recognise the scale of the problem is largely unknown since so much of it remains underground.
"These roadshows will help authorities identify the problem more readily, helping some of the most vulnerable people in the country."
The government's Forced Marriage Unit deals with 5,000 inquiries and 300 cases of forced marriage every year. About a third of these concern under-18s and 15% are men. Home Office figures suggest there are about 12 "honour" killings each year but the report says the total is likely to be far higher.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008