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Groups dealing with ‘honour’ crime victims need better tools: women’s council

Quebec’s Council for the Status of Women says groups that deal with children and families should be given better tools on dealing with cultural differences and so-called ‘honour’ crimes.

The Council studied 26 instances of honour crimes that have taken place in Canada since 1991. Twenty-one of those women or girls were murdered; five survived their attacks. Researchers, however, say the numbers could be higher and much is hidden.

The four murders of the Shafia women and girls in 2009 is considered the most severe case.

In fact it was the Shafia murders that prompted the provincial government to ask the Council to examine honour crimes and see what could be done to stop them.

“We feel it’s urgent to train the groups; the social workers who are dealing with potential victims of honour-based violence, said Julie Miville-Dechene, president of the Council on the Status of Women.  The analysis says in many ways honour crimes are similar to conjugal violence, except that instead of just one person attempting to control a woman, with honour crimes members of an extended family can seek to exert control over a woman or girl.

Honour crimes can consist of confining a woman to her home, forcing her to wear certain clothing, arranged marriages, genital mutilation or murder. “These violent acts are not exclusive to any one culture or religion,” said Miville-Dechene. “It wasn’t that long ago that in Quebec underage and unmarried women were sent away from home if they got pregnant,” and often forced to give up their children.

The Council said there should be legal changes made to make it easier to grant injunctions against family members — and not just spouses. “What we are saying is that in certain cases related to honour-crime violence, parents could be complicit,” said Miville-Dechene.

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