• Call for the public and service providers to unite and ‘Shine the Spotlight on the reality of honour based abuse in the UK with online conference, social media spotlight and launch of comms toolkit
  • Government backed honour based abuse helpline received over 12,000 contacts in 2019
  • The helpline has seen increased reporting during the lockdown by up to 200%

Leeds-based award-winning human rights charity Karma Nirvana https://karmanirvana.org.uk/ has been on a mission to support victims, both men and women, affected by forced marriages and honour-based abuse and killings for over 25 years, and on the 14th July 2020 they are set to shine the spotlight on this subject, to the wider world, as part of their annual ‘Day of Memory’.

As they take time to recognise and honour those who have lost their lives to this abuse they are reaching out to the public, police and other service providers and asking “how much do you actually know about this problem? Would you recognise it? Would you feel equipped to deal with it- should it arise on your doorstep” and they are asking us to all stand together to take stock and consider this.

Natasha Rattu, the executive director said: “As the rise of domestic violence has been strongly documented throughout lockdown there is more public awareness of this problem and it’s been fabulous to see so much support being offered to those who are vulnerable. The public and service providers are very tuned in to looking out for the warning signs and being able to signpost to support services for those suffering at the hands of domestic abuse - but honour based abuse is a different matter. Whilst it often gets grouped in with domestic abuse it is in fact much more complex, as those doing the abusing are most likely to be family members, and more often than not there are multiple perpetrators. The increase in calls to our helpline has been up by 200% - something truly worrying as our victims lives are often very controlled by those they live with, so being scared enough to risk reaching out means they weighed up the risk of being caught against the desperate need for help - and their desperation won.”

As part of their ‘Day of Memory’, Karma Nirvana is keen to educate and inform wider audiences around the warning signs to look out for and the support that is available and as well as an online conference which has over 600 people registered including representatives from Government attending, they are also reaching out more broadly asking the public for help.

They are reaching out for support during their ‘Spotlight’ hour, at 2pm, where they are looking to educate and bust myths around Honour Based Abuse. Calling for the nation to take action with a unified activity that will help shine a spotlight on honour based abuse to raise awareness, Karma Nirvana are asking supporters to share one of their social media graphics at 2pm- with the message: ‘We’re shining the spotlight on honour based abuse- are you? -’…using the hashtags #ShineTheSpotlight & #HonourBasedAbuse

Messages being shared in these graphics include: “68% of victims at risk of Honour Based Abuse were at high risk of serious harm or homicide -would you know how to help them?”

  • Myth #1 ‘Honour’ based abuse is a ‘culture thing’ – NO – it is NEVER acceptable
  • Myth #2 ‘Honour’ based abuse is restricted to certain religions – NO – it’s far reaching
  • Myth #3 Arranged marriage and forced marriage is the same thing – NO – far from it
  • Myth #4 Males can’t be victims of honour based abuse – NO – it is less frequent but it happens

As part of the day Karma Nirvana is also launching a national communications toolkit to enable all to learn more and shine the spotlight on honour-based abuse. This will be available on their website on Tuesday 14th July.

This will be the sixth day of remembrance that the award-winning British human rights charity has hosted.

Natasha said: “During the day the charity will continually remember the victims of honour based abuse and killings, sharing incredibly powerful stories from victims friends and family members. We are also hugely focused on enabling as wide as audience as possible to learn more about the misconceptions and myths around this kind of abuse, to raise awareness and to help people spot the signs of ‘honour’ based abuse. We have chosen the 14th July, to mark the anniversary of honour killing victim Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday. Shafilea was murdered by her parents in 2003, with her parents believing death and suffocation was the punishment for her embracing a ‘western’ lifestyle. Whilst they were later found guilty of murder, this horrific practice is often unknown. Myself and the team of passionate volunteers, supporters and advocates will not stop until more awareness is given to the cause against honour killings.”

Melissa Harrigan - Friend of Shafilea Ahmed and Geraint Jones - Investigating officer in the Shafilea Investigation will be speaking as part of the virtual event. They will also be joined by guest speakers: British solicitor Nazir Afzal OBE, a specialist in the legal areas of child sexual exploitation and violence against women, Payzee Mahmod, who along with her late sister Banaz were both forced into child marriage; Caroline Goode - Investigating officer in the Banaz Investigation and Champion of Change Dame Vera Baird QC who was appointed Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales in June 2019.

Karma Nirvana is an award-winning British human rights charity supporting victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage founded in 1993, by survivor, activist and author Dr Jasvinder Sanghera CBE. Jasvinder was born and brought up in Derby and is a survivor of a forced marriage.

When she was fourteen, Jasvinder Sanghera was shown a photo of the man chosen to be her husband. She was terrified. She'd witnessed the torment her sisters endured in their arranged marriages, so she ran away from home, grief-stricken when her parents disowned her. Her memoir ‘Shame: The bestselling true story of a girl's struggle to survive’ was a Times Top 10 Bestseller. It is the heart-rending true story of a Jasvinder’s attempt to escape from a cruel, claustrophobic world where family honour mattered more than anything - sometimes more than life itself. Jasvinder's story is one of terrible oppression, a harrowing struggle against a punitive code of honour - and, finally, triumph over adversity.

Jasvinder is recognised as bringing the issue of forced marriage into the public domain and former Prime Minister David Cameron stated that her work; “turned my head on the issue of forced marriage.” Her work is recognised as being pivotal to the creation of a specific UK forced marriage criminal offence in 2014.

Over the past 20 years Karma Nirvana has continued to grow and grow, and is now headed up by her daughter, Natasha, whilst Jasvinder commits her time to international speaking and her role as an expert advisor to the courts in matters of child, civil and criminal proceedings. She was instrumental in ensuring that all UK police forces are required to improve their understanding of honour-based abuse and forced marriage by inspections conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Dr Jasvinder Sanghera CBE said: ““We lose thousands of men and women globally every year, killed by their own families for bringing ‘shame’ to the community and the reason why? They simply want to live a life where they can make their own choices. Honour crimes are not determined by age, faith, gender or sexuality, we support and work with all victims across Britain.

“Our Day of Memory provides a platform where experiences can be shared, knowledge can be built and myths can be bust. We invite you to join us as #WeRemember all those lost and look forward to seeing you on the 14th July as we shine the spotlight on honour-based abuse.”

She added: “I am proud of what we have already achieved as a charity at Karma Nirvana – we continue to run a national helpline offering direct support and guidance to victims and professionals. We also provide training to the Police, NHS and Social Services and we also act as expert witnesses in court, speak out in schools and attend awareness raising events nationally and internationally - but to really increase our impact we need to support of even wider networks and our Day of Memory is a chance for us to reach out and ask for this help.”

The Karma Nirvana UK Helpline: 0800 5999 247 operates Monday - Friday: 9am - 5pm but if you are in immediate danger call 999.