Culture clashes 'set to worsen'

March 5, 2004

The judiciary and police are ill-prepared to deal with the rise in the number of honour crimes perpetrated in some migrant communities, an expert has warned.

Usha Sood, senior law lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and a practising barrister, told the second annual hate crimes conference, staged last week at the university, that professionals were relatively ignorant of the cultural context in which problems arose.

She said the situation was likely to get worse as some migrant communities moving to the UK held on to cultures in which concepts of family honour were strongly enforced.

Ms Sood said: "Awareness and insight into the problem is poor and still myth-ridden. And the problem is going to escalate."

Honour crimes range from murder and physical attacks to psychological torture, incarceration and abduction of children.

The victims are usually young women who are adjudged to have brought shame on their families by transgressing culturally and religiously defined moral rules.

One young woman was scalped for having an affair with a married man.

Another had her throat cut by her father for dating a non-Kurdish man.

Ms Sood said the restriction of freedom through emotional harassment was far more common than killings but was part of the same problem.

She said such wrongs were committed in many cultures, not only fundamentalist Muslim but also, for example, among Christian eastern and southern Europeans.

Ms Sood, who has acted as an adviser on honour crimes, argued that an understanding of the nature of honour was vital to ensure that cases were properly investigated and that witnesses were free to speak out at trials.

She added that immigrant and recently settled communities needed to move towards integration and away from cultural and religious restrictions to freedom of choice.

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