For the Uninitiated: Crime (Aggravated Murder Of And Violence Against Women) Bill

Language matters. The use of the term “honour” to describe a violent criminal act can be explained only 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 and simply call murder, rape, abuse or enslavement. Nusrat Gahni MP

What is the Crime (Aggravated Murder Of And Violence Against Women) Bill?

It is a Private Members Bill proposed by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani that will ban 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 purpose of the Bill is to encourage a cultural change in how such crimes are viewed, both by agencies within the criminal justice system and within the wider community.  Essentially the term “honour killing” should be banned because “political correctness” is putting police off investigating domestic violence in some communities. 

It will progress to Second Reading stage in March after receiving overwhelming support in the House, with just one notable objection from fellow Tory Phillip Davies.

Sounds fair enough – Why did Davies object?

The clue is in the name. Although broadly in favour, Davies spoke against the motion on the basis that it only offered protection to women and ignored male victims of  so called ‘honour crimes’.

Are victims of ‘honour crimes’ exclusively female?

No but they are much more likely to experience this type of crime, especially so called ‘honour killings’.

However it is broadly understood that approximately 1 in 4 victims of ‘honour crimes’ will be men and that gay men are especially vulnerable. Official data on this issue is officially patchy but in 2015 an audit of so called ‘honour killings’ of UK citizens found that 24% of the victims were men**.

So why are men excluded?

Apparently they aren’t. Ghani has confirmed that the scope of protection will extend to men.

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So why create unnecessary confusion by giving the Bill such a gendered title?

Ghani appears to have avoided giving an explicit answer to this question but presumably it is intended to reflect the fact that there are more female victims of this sort of crime.

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So is Davies being pedantic & unhelpfully politically correct?

Some MPs, including Ghani, have certainly attempted to portray him in this way and indeed prominent so called ‘fourth wave’ feminist Laura Bates has rather disingenuously questioned his suitability as an MP over his stand.

But Phillips was making a very serious point which also highlights a much broader issue about quite stark inequalities for male victims of domestic violence and abuse.

In order to save money, consecutive Governments have contracted state funded services in this area to a patchwork of NGOs on a regional basis. Many of the charities that offer services to domestic violence victims self identify as ‘woman only’ employers (which is almost certainly illegal under Equality Law) and are only prepared to help female victims (which the Equality Act does allow under some specific circumstances).

These groups support gendered language in legislation because it both explicitly and implicitly helps to ensure that resources and support in this area prioritise women who are more likely to be victims. This is fair enough as far as it’s fair enough, but in reality it generally means that resources and support are almost exclusively channeled towards NGOs that exist to help vulnerable people but refuse to help men.

By way of example, the National 24 Hour Free Phone Helpline for Victims of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence won’t help men and the ‘sisters uncut’ movement who have been lauded in the press for fighting Tory cuts of specialist services in this area are a women only collective who don’t lobby for specialist services for men and who’s motto is ‘Good night men’s rights’.

This Bill deals, quite rightly, with dangerous political correctness, as it does not get any more serious than murder. I completely agree with my hon. Friend about the term “honour killing”—there is nothing honourable about murdering someone. I would encourage her to keep making this point, as even without legislation she could make some progress. I am afraid, however, that while tackling one element of political correctness, she has opened up another politically correct can of worms. The main reason I oppose this Bill is that it relates only to female victims and not all victims. Phillip Davies MP.

So why not just change the wording to avoid confusion and get Davies to support the Bill?

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Ghani hasn’t answered this question but presumably it is because she has the support of the majority of MPs and therefore doesn’t need to compromise her preferred choice of words.

Confusingly, the aspect of her Bill addressing perpetrators is worded in a gender neutral manner, presumably to acknowledge the fact that women can be perpetrators and accomplices in these crimes and like men, can sometimes behave in a way that is calculating, brutal, and without remorse.

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 makes it explicit that both sexes are afforded protection and there is no reason that the Crime (Aggravated Murder Of And Violence Against Women) Bill couldn’t too.

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There is a significant and growing body of evidence that male victims of domestic violence are less likely to seek help, or even contact the police in an emergency, because of a perceived stigma and also the fear that they may be treated as a perpetrator.

Even when we acknowledge the emotional, psychological, financial and sexual elements of domestic abuse, we still tend to think primarily of acts of violence, especially extreme acts of violence like so called ‘honour killings’ where women are significantly more likely to be the victim. This is human nature but sadly portraying domestic violence as a ‘gendered crime’ does nothing to encourage male victims to seek help but does encourage the state to view them as second class citizens deserving a segregated and second class service.

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Segregated water fountains in US school circa 1950s

In my humble subjective opinion, insisting on gendered language in legislation that is nominally designed to help everyone looks disturbingly like a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away some victim’s equal rights and strip away their sense of self and value.

Given that the central purpose of the Bill is to discourage language that diminishes the status of victims of domestic violence, is it not a bit odd to explicitly word it in such a way that does exactly that?

EYEthink so and so does Phillip Davies. 

Unfortunately for some reason his colleagues don’t.  This may be for a number of reasons including ignorance, conscious or unconscious bias, a culture of political correctness which prevents them from asking important questions, a lack of urgency from the electorate (i.e. votes) or a genuine fear that the likes of Laura Bates and the Guardian might campaign to have them sacked.

But if you contact your Member of Parliament and ask them they will probably make it explicitly clear that it’s definitely not because they want to make life harder for at least 25% of domestic abuse victims, or deny them equitable treatment and help when they most need it.

I know that people do not like any other opinions being expressed, but this is a Parliament; this is a democracy. Phillip Davies MP.

*According to the Metropolitan Police: Honour based violence is a violent crime or incident which may have been committed to ‘protect or defend the honour of the family or community’.

It is often linked to family members or acquaintances who mistakenly believe someone has brought shame to their family or community by doing something that is not in keeping with the traditional beliefs of their culture. Such as want to get out of an arranged or forced marriage, or taking part in activities not be considered traditional within a particular culture

In the UK ‘Honour crimes’ are carried out almost exclusively within Asian and Middle Eastern families and can often be difficult to prosecute due to the unwillingness of family, relatives and communities to testify.

There is increasing evidence that the police and other authorities are intimidated against pursuing and prosecuting some crimes for fear of being accused of racism or stirring up community ill will.

 

** Henry Jackson Society Report. Also both the Crown Prosecution Service and The Pakistani Human Rights Commission (which monitors reports of such crimes) report that about a quarter of honour crime victims are men.

 

Image Credit: Issac T. Quill

 

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