Domestic ‘honour’ violence cost Britain 25.3 billion pounds (Lead)

June 13th, 2008 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, June 13 (IANS) Domestic violence cost the British government 25.3 billion pounds in 2005-06, a parliamentary report has said, even as an influential Muslim group admitted the linked issue of forced marriages among Asians had reached a crisis point. The British parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, headed by ethnic Indian MP Keith Vaz, said in a report published Thursday that the real cost of domestic violence - in expenses incurred on public services, losses to the economy and costs to the victims - were likely to be higher than the 25.3 billion pounds incurred in 2005-06.

This was because not all crimes are reported to police.

Some of the domestic violence is directly linked to the practice of ‘honour (izzat) violence’ that is said to be widespread among some Asian communities in Britain, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims and Indian-origin Sikhs.

The report said the number of those who die in ‘honour killings’ every year may be far higher than the 12 estimated by the British home ministry.

The report also highlighted another related practice, where young Asian women and men are forced into marrying a stranger from the country of their origin.

Such forced marriages are often unhappy and lead to domestic violence, which in turn go unreported because of deeply-held concepts of ‘family honour’.

Vaz said it was time schools educated children about such violence.

“We educate our young people about the dangers of drugs or road safety but not, it seems, about domestic and ‘honour’-based violence and forced marriage, which will affect a quarter of all women in their lifetime and many men too,” he said.

Meanwhile, a leading Islamic group admitted that more than 70 percent of marriages in the British Muslim community involving a foreign spouse have some element of coercion or force.

While police and government authorities deal with some 300 reported cases of forced marriages every year, the true figure of such abuse is in its thousands, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) said in a report that backed up government fears about the scale of the problem.

“These figures reflect the crisis that has loomed within the Muslim community without being noticed or dealt with for the past two decades. The figures that are reported to the authorities are only the tip of the iceberg,” the report said.

“Young Muslims in Britain are under siege from their elders and parents because of the generational and cultural gap. They are alienated from the mosques because these mosques are mainly controlled by the elder generation,” it added.

MAT was set up last year so that Muslims could self-determine disputes in accordance with Islamic laws on a voluntary basis.

The report recommends that Muslim community leaders work alongside the Home Office and Foreign Office to resolve the issue, and calls for a summit on forced marriages to be held at Downing Street with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

According to the government’s Forced Marriage Unit, 65 percent of the reported cases involved Pakistanis and 25 percent Bangladeshi nationals. About a third of the cases concern under-18s.

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