Support victims of honour-based violence

Published Wednesday, May 7 2014, 15:05 BST  |  By  |  Add comment
It's easy to think that forced marriages and honour-based violence are a million miles from the UK. But they're not.

Although forced marriages are set to become illegal, this isn't stopping thousands of British women being raped, abused and physical beaten in their own homes.

The government's own Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,302 possible cases of forced marriage last year – more than 80% of them involving female victims.

Pav Ahmed

© Gemma Day

Pav Ahmed is leading the petition

And Karma Nirvana's - a UK charity who supports victims of honour crimes and forced marriage - helpline currently receives an average of 700 calls a month. But the hidden and secret nature of forced marriage means these figures are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Therefore, women's magazine Cosmopolitan has teamed up with Karma Nirvana to propose a day to remember all women who have been killed in such circumstances.

The day being proposed is 14 July - the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed who sadly lost her life in 2003.

Shafilea suffered years of abuse and honour-based violence from her own parents, which included them trying to force her into marriage by drugging and flying her out to Pakistan. Her tragic tale ended when her mum and dad finally suffocated her to death in front of her siblings.

Although her parents were arrested in 2004, they were released without charge and it took a staggering nine years until they were eventually found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Pav Ahmed, who is leading the petition on, was just seven-years-old when her father and grandmother arranged for her, mother Surjit Athwal, to be killed on holiday in India.

Despite both being found guilty of conspiracy to murder in July 2007, her actual killer has still not been found.

Pav says: "With honour-based violence, the families want to wipe out any trace of the victim – my grandma and my dad said my mum had run off with another man. They tried to make us forget about her when in fact, they'd ordered her killing."

Louise Court, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan said: "The one place women should feel at their safest is home, but for many this sadly is the place they are most at risk.

"We want this day to ensure that the victims of honour killings are not wiped from history – their lives and deaths matter, and we must use them to empower women and girls suffering this abuse to speak out and seek the help they so desperately need."

For more information, visit Cosmo's website.