“We have kidnappings, abductions, assaults, sexual offences. Anything that you can imagine could happen, does happen, in the name of honour,” says Nazir Afzal, Crown Prosecutor for the north-west of England.
And murder – 10 to 12 cases a year. Yet as the hyper-active, smartly dressed lawyer concedes in his Manchester office, violence invoked in the name of family honour, mostly by citizens of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin, is often hidden and unreported. Mr Afzal knows about honour, having grown up in Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim household.
Honour, he says, can be a good thing, helping bind families and communities together. But, “at the moment in so many communities, in so many families, it is merely used to suppress women, to oppress women. So, if they misbehave in some way, or make their own choice, they have dishonoured the family. If men do the same, well it’s men – you know they do what they want. Regrettably too often it’s used to control women.”
After World War II, Britain received waves of migrants from its former colonies in India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others came, some for higher education, but mostly to work in the factories around London and in the Midlands and north of England. In England, generations who self-identify as Asian now number more than 4 million, 8 per cent of the English population.