Nusrat Ghani MP today secured the support of the House of Commons for her campaign to end the use of the word “honour” to refer to instances of murder and domestic violence which are currently categorised as so-called “honour” crimes. The House also supported calls to increase support for British victims of domestic violence overseas, as well as a commitment to pursue and prosecute perpetrators of aggravated murder of British citizens overseas.
Ms Ghani introduced a private member’s bill, overwhelmingly approved for introduction by MPs, which seeks to remove the language of “honour” from all official documents. The term describes the crime in terms of the motivations of the perpetrator – between 2010 and 2015 there were 11,000 recorded incidents of crime where the term “honour” was applied in the UK.
In her speech introducing the Bill, she said: “The use of the term “honour” to describe a violent criminal act committed against a man, but more often a woman, can only be explained as a means of self-justification for the perpetrator. It diminishes the victim and provides a convenient excuse for what in our society we should accurately call simply murder, rape, abuse, and enslavement.”
She also spoke of instances in which the police and other authorities are intimidated against pursuing and prosecuting some violent crimes for fear of being accused of racism or stirring up community ill will, saying “The principle of treating every victim equally and with dignity, of our law enforcement agencies responding to every crime with equal vigour, is threatened when a separate set of cultural norms and practices are accepted for some victims of domestic violence. We have one law in our country and it applies to everyone regardless of their heritage or faith.”
She spoke of three brave victims, Sarbjit, Fozia and Seeta, who were each subject to instances of domestic violence which, in Seeta’s case, led to her murder. Sarbjit was abused throughout her marriage, but told that the “honour” of her family was at stake if she complained. When she struck up the courage to go to the police, the evidence of her abusers was believed over hers.
Ms Ghani commented: “Today was a humbling experience. It is rare to have the overwhelming support of the House of Commons on all sides, with just one objector, and having survivors sitting in the gallery to listen to my speech made it particularly special.
“I am delighted by the determination of MPs to resolve this issue, and it was especially important that the Prime Minister, who herself led the way as Home Secretary with landmark changes to the way we combat modern slavery, was there as well.”
The Bill also seeks to extend extra-territorial jurisdiction to domestic violence, so that when a British citizen is taken overseas by her perpetrator, where the crimes are continued, they are protected by British justice and support. At present, these victims do not have the same level of protection, commitment to investigate, to prosecute or to provide desperately needed support to victims and families.
The Bill was overwhelmingly approved for introduction by the House of Commons, with just one objection, and will now progress to Second Reading on Friday 24 March.
Her speech can be watched here.