Desperate plight of pregnant victims facing honour-based abuse revealed by surge in calls to national helpline

The UK’s national helpline for honour-based abuse has had a surge in reports from pregnant victims, according to the charity Karma Nirvana.

Data seen exclusively by ITV News, shows a 104% increase in honour-based abuse reported by pregnant women - this is compared to the same period in 2019.

The charity also saw contact through emails and calls increase by 351% and reporting of concealed pregnancies rise by 16%.

Payzee Mahmod lost her sister to honour-based abuse. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Payzee Mahmod lost her sister, Banaz, to honour-based abuse. The so-called honour killing was carried out by her father and uncle after she fell in love with someone of her own choosing. They believed she had dishonoured the family name. 

Banaz Mahmod Credit: ITV News

In 2007 both were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The sentence, however, has never dimmed the memory of the abuse.  

"It was like being in a prison,” Payzee told ITV News.

“Everything was controlled, even down to small things like makeup and accessories those things would all be controlled."

Banaz Mahmod Credit: ITV News

Think about it like this, you wake up and everything from the moment you wake up is decided for you. You're not in control of your day, you're not in control of how you dress that day, what you want to do with your day, where you want to go and who you want to speak to.

Payzee Mahmod

Under lockdown this ‘big brother’ effect worsens, she added, and even pregnancy can be used as a form of control.

“As a pregnant woman, things that you may have been allowed to wear before hand, you probably won't be able to wear now,” she said.

"Behaviours you might have been able to express before hand you won't be able to now.

"They can see every single thing that you do, having access to your finances, to your social media, the people that you speak to, the conversations that you're having."

The spike in reports is a telling sign says Karma Nirvana’s executive director Natasha Rattu. Credit: ITV News

Karma Nirvana’s executive director Natasha Rattu believes the spike in reports is a telling sign that shouldn’t be ignored. 

“It shows how desperate people have been in the lockdown, where they’ve been locked in with many perpetrators without access to the services they wouldn’t normally have access to,” she said.

“It’s quite exceptional circumstances, which is putting a lot of pressure on victims in this environment.”

But calling the helpline hasn’t necessarily meant the help has been straightforward. 

The helpline number: 0800 5999 247 Credit: ITV News

Those staffing the phones say lockdown has caused most of the usual channels of support to shut down.

Helpline manager Priya Manota told ITV News: “Refuge spaces have been few and far between because of travel restrictions, also refuges have been unable to accept people because they might be isolating.” 

For now, the only option for many will be to speak up - knowing it could mean life or death for them and their unborn child. 

If you need help or know someone facing honour-based abuse please visit https://karmanirvana.org.uk/

The helpline number: 0800 5999 247