‘Cultural barrier’ in reporting sexual violence in South Asian communities

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CULTURAL norms in South Asian communities are a barrier to reporting sexual violence, according to research from the University of Hull.

Data suggests that incidences of sexual violence among South Asian women and children in England and Wales are low, but Dr Karen Harrison at University of Hull working with Dr Aisha K Gill of University of Roehampton, found these crimes are happening but are not being reported due to cultural concepts such as honour, modesty and stigma.

Interviews with victims and practitioners also revealed a lack of awareness of what constitutes sexual abuse – particularly regarding marital rape.

One of the victims, aged 46, who was interviewed as part of the research, said: “It’s all conditional love in the Asian families and that’s what honour is all about – there is no unconditional love in Asian families. Honour is more important to them than their own child’s happiness.

“It’s down to the woman to keep her own dignity and self-respect. The concept of honour is about honouring the family and the community at the cost of the individual.”

Dr Harrison, who will present preliminary findings at a conference on sexual violence at the university today, said: “Not only may fears surrounding the consequences of disclosing incidences of sexual violence stop victims seeking help, our research has also found that practical issues such as language barriers and a lack of adequate police training can also prevent these crimes being reported. Our work has uncovered a number of initiatives operating in these communities that raise awareness of what constitutes sexual violence and encourages women and children to report crimes in a way they feel safe.”