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ITV News investigation: Honour killings and violence

She is small, mild mannered and quietly spoken, not what you would expect from a woman who is about to reveal the shocking acts she has committed.

Never before have we heard from anyone admit to such crimes in public.

So she asked me to conceal who she is, but she cannot hide from what she has done - abusing, persecuting and forcing her teenage daughter to marry a man she had never met.

Speaking in Urdu, the native language of Pakistan, she told me: "My relatives hit her. We slapped her. I would say we tortured her. We forced her to agree to the marriage."

Hers is one story among thousands hidden in homes across the UK. Where, away from prying eyes, girls are beaten into submission to preserve the parents' so-called honour.

It's a concept common in many cultures across the world, including those in India, Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey - communities which prize the reputation and standing of a family at times even above a life.

The family's aim is to preserve the parents' so called honour. Credit: ITV News

It is the women who are seen as the guardians of that good family name. Anyone acting outside the preset boundaries, such as wearing make-up, wearing western clothes or refusing to marry someone their parents have chosen for them, can ultimately face their family's wrath.

Being locked up in the house, refusing access to friends and college or being disowned are seen as mild punishments. For those who continue to disobey, extreme violence and even being killed is the ultimate sanction - the final method to preserve family honour.

Life outside the family home can be restricted Credit: ITV News

It is this concept of honour that led this woman to inflict the violence to which she subjected her daughter. She said: "I felt what my relatives were doing to my daughter was completely right and acceptable. I agreed with the my family, that my daughter should marry who we say."

They were in Pakistan at the time. She had taken her daughter to the city of Karachi under the pretext of a summer holiday.

It was there that the family relatives began their brutality which culminated in the young girl, only 16 at the time, bowing to pressure and marrying a man, she had never seen before and who was 12 years older than her.

Once back in the UK, there was no respite for having submitted to the marriage, but more abuse.

Her parents locked her up in her own home. Her mother said she was worried the authorities would find out, she said, how would we face our community that too was a question of our honour so...so I wouldn't allow her to meet her friends or talk to them on the phone. I kept her a prisoner at home.

There are around a 100 forced marriages a month, according to the Government's Forced Marriage Unit.

And a 2011 survey of thirty-nine police forces for the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation showed 2823 honour crimes were committed each year.

The crimes are committed in towns and cities across the UK, including Luton in Bedfordshire. In the past it has been identified as an area of concern in a government report.

Luton, Bedfordshire Credit: ITV News

I went there to gauge opinion on what honour means to the Asian community of Bury Park - how did they regard it, what would they do if their sister or daughter wanted to marry outside their family's wishes.

Many members of the community who first agreed to talk to me about the issue walked away when I told them what it was about. The subject was clearly a taboo.

They did not want to discuss what is known to exist but is rarely, if ever spoken about or acknowledged.

All those who did speak to me said killing was wrong. But some younger Asian men said what they would do if their sister wanted to marry someone outside their family's wishes.

Some of what they had to say was shocking.

One young man, aged 20, dressed in a baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans told me:

"Obviously I wouldn't kill her, speaking the truth I might have to shout at her.

"If she don't listen I might have to slap her around, if she don't listen then, I'd have to tell my dad and my mum to deal with it."

Another said, "I might take some small measures such as keep her in the house for a bit...I would know some people possibly take some guns out and take alternative measures."

But many condemned violence of any sort including girls similar in age to Shafilea Ahmed, the teenager murdered by her parents.

One girl in her teens, dressed in jeans and a top said: "My parents are fairly strict but I suppose they let us do the right thing, they're not that extreme. "That's just extreme limits that her parents went to - I can't believe they would do that, how can they call themselves her parents?"

Those victims brave enough to flee the abuse in their homes, cannot always break free so easily from the clutches of their family.

On another visit to Luton, a leading solictor who represents such victims told me how some of their family members have tried to track them down.

Many victims end up in women's refuge. She told me one girl had been forced to move to 12 different refuges because her family kept finding her.

The family were helped by Asian taxi drivers in the town who were given a photograph of her and asked to let them know if they saw her. Those taxi drivers would carry out the task willingly because they too subscribed to this code of honour.

The solicitor also tells me another horrific tale of a young girl who was tracked down this way in a supermarket car park. Her brother was called and when she refused to leave with him, he threatened to rape her to bring her into line.

With the help of the Jan Trust, a charity which specialises in reforming perpetators who force marriages upon their children and other honour-based crimes, the woman who talked to me about the abuse she carried out, has broken away from her cultural expectations. But she still lives with regrets.

She said: "It was like a bad dream. I mean, nothing comes above your children, does it. I ruined my own daughter's life and people are still doing this."

For anyone wanting to seek help:

  • Jan Trust provides advice & guidance to women, also raises awareness and does preventative work on forced marriages. Phone: 020 8889 9433
  • Karma Nirvana is a registered charity that supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour based abuse. Phone 0800 599 9247
  • The Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation provides advice and support to Middle Eastern women and girls living in the UK who are facing 'honour' based violence, domestic abuse, forced marriage or female genital mutilation. Phone: 020 7920 6460
  • The Sharan Project is a U.K. based charity which seeks to provide support, advice and create a forum for vulnerable women, particularly of South Asian origin, who have left home forcefully or voluntarily. Phone: 0844 504 3231
  • The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint Foreign Office and Home Office initiative dedicated to preventing forced marriage. The FMU helps British Nationals overseas and anyone in the UK who is at risk of, or a victim of, forced marriage. If you are worried that you may be forced into marriage, or know someone else who may be, contact a caseworker on 020 7008 0151.

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