ON what would have been the 34th birthday of murdered Cheshire teenager Shafilea Ahmed, a Joint Statement has been issued against ‘Honour’-Based Abuse, with Savera UK, a leading charity tackling HBA and harmful practices in the UK.
Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner, David Keane, The Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Jane Kennedy and the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, have issued a joint statement with Liverpool-based charity Savera UK to mark the National Day of Memory and speak out against ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA).
The national Day of Memory is held annually on July 14th to remember those lost to ‘honour’ killings and HBA. The date was Warrington teenager Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday. In 2003,17-year-old Shafilea from Great Sankey was murdered by her parents for refusing a forced marriage and becoming ‘too westernised’, in the eyes of her family and community. her body was found ina river at Sedgwick, Cumbria, the following February.
There are an estimated 12 ‘honour’ killings a year in the UK and last year 80 percent of referrals received by Savera UK were relating to victims of – or those at risk of – HBA and forced marriage. However, the true amount of those at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse is not known due to the hidden nature of these crimes.
In the 12 months April 2019 – March 2020, only 34 incidents of honour based abuse were reported to Merseyside Police. Even fewer incidents of Forced Marriage and FGM were reported. This indicates that under-reporting of ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices remains an issue in the region.
At present, there are 24 live Forced Marriage Protection Orders in the Merseyside force area, protecting 55 people and 19 live FGM Protection Orders in the Merseyside force area, protecting 24 people.
Savera UK CEO and founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “Death or abuse should never be the price to pay for your freedom and right to choose. We are committed to eradicating these harmful practices for good and we welcome the support of both Merseyside and Cheshire police and crime commissioners and the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.
“Reporting figures may still be low and this is always a challenge, but every person who speaks out and gets help is a life saved. Far more people are reaching out to us for help than when Savera UK was established 10 years ago. It is only through continued education, awareness-raising initiatives and collaborative working that we can encourage people at risk from HBA to speak out, so we can help them to find their ‘savera’, which means ‘new beginning’ in Hindi.
“We invite other organisations, communities, politicians and individuals to join with us in supporting our statement and speaking out against this horrific practice.”
Speaking in support of the joint statement, Cheshire police and crime commissioner, David Keane, said: “Shafilea Ahmed was a vibrant young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Her senseless death affected people right across the world and still does to this day.
“One of my key policing priorities is to support victims and protect the vulnerable – all of us should be allowed the freedom to live our lives without fear of violence. I would urge anyone in Cheshire who either has been, or feels they may be, in danger of becoming a victim of so-called honour based abuse, to speak to the Cheshire Constabulary. I can assure you that your concerns will be treated seriously and sensitively.
“So-called ‘honour’-based abuse is often referred to as a hidden crime, and if you feel that someone you know might be at risk, please report it. I am committed to working with the chief constable to ensure we will continue to have a police service that is there to protect and serve everyone, especially those who are at risk of harm.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “The tragic death of Shafilea Ahmed should act as a constant reminder of the need to raise awareness of these complex issues.
“These crimes are still significantly under-reported in Merseyside and across the country. We know there may only be one chance, one window of opportunity, to reach out and save a person who may be in harm’s way. If we don’t, that person may walk out the door and, in the very worst of cases, may never be seen again.
“That’s why it is essential that we do everything possible to increase understanding and knowledge of these issues and let victims and potential victims know that there are people who can help, people who understand what they are going through. National Day of Memory is an important opportunity for us to do just that and I am proud to join with Savera UK to make this joint statement against so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse.”
The Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram said: “This is an important anniversary and we remember Shafilea and all those tragically affected by ‘honour’-based abuse. I applaud the work of Savera UK in helping tackle this appalling abuse wherever it appears.”
Any organisations wishing to add their support to the joint statement are asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org so their name can be added.
Shafelia’s story was not a one-off. ‘Honour’ killings and HBA are not something that only happen in other countries. These harmful practices do not only exist in South Asian, Middle Eastern and African cultures. They do not only affect women.
*Savera UK is one of the leading charities tackling culturally-specific abuse in the UK, including forced marriage and female genital mutilation. It campaigns to eliminate ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices and provide life-saving services to those at risk, regardless of age, culture, sexuality or gender. Its Savera UK Youth programme was established in 2017 to empower and inspire the next generation and encourage them to speak out and advocate for its work.