Warnings have been issued about a potential summer surge in so-called honour crimes including forced marriages after Yorkshire’s largest police force recorded 200 such incidents in a year.
West Yorkshire Police said it was working with teachers, airport staff and community organisations to raise awareness of the problem ahead of an expected rise in complaints when schools break up for the holidays.
In the last financial year the force recorded 200 incidents and logged 27 crimes, including one forced marriage and other offences including the rape, harassment and assault of women at the hands of family members and spouses.
Today marks the first annual day of remembrance for those killed in honour-based incidents, with one charity warning that services for victims remain “woefully under-provided”.
West Yorkshire Police Superintendent Ged McManus said: “While most people will be looking forward to their summer holiday, there are a small minority suffering behind closed doors with the prospect of a trip abroad to be married against their will.
“It is important that potential victims are aware that, regardless of what they may have been told by their family, everyone has the right to choose and that forcing someone to marry against their will is a crime.”
From June last year it became a crime to force someone to marry against their will. Offenders face up to seven years in prison.
Forced marriage protection orders were introduced to safeguard potential victims. Anyone breaching the legally binding controls faces up to five years behind bars.
Today’s Lost Women Day comes on what would have been the 29th birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, from Bradford.
She was murdered by her parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed in 2003 for bringing “shame” on the family by adopting “Westernised” behaviour. Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, were told they would serve a minimum of 25 years in prison for the crime.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge, said it was an “utter tragedy” that Miss Ahmed and others “died fighting for their right to make choices about their own lives”.
“Let’s be clear – there is nothing honourable about violence or abuse,” she said.
“Women experiencing honour-based violence must have sufficient protection from emergency services, as well as access to specialist refuge accommodation, advocacy and community support.
“There is a dire shortage of services for women experiencing domestic violence as it is, but specialist support for women from black, Asian, minority ethnic or refugee backgrounds is woefully under-provided.”
Figures released by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation this month showed there had been more than 11,000 cases of honour crime in the UK from 2010-14. South Yorkshire had 1,009 unconfirmed incidents in 2014 alone.
The county’s police and crime commissioner Alan Billings warned that perpetrators would face the full force of the law.
He said: “I fully appreciate the diversity of South Yorkshire and embrace the cultures living within our communities in harmony.
“I will, however, not tolerate anyone using their own cultural beliefs as an excuse to break the law.
“Forced marriage and honour based violence are a crime here in the United Kingdom and anyone found to be inflicting pain will be brought to justice.”