CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed new guidelines which target honour crimes and abuses carried out online, but said more work needs to be done to protect Asian women and girls from the threats posed on the internet. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) released a joint statement last Wednesday (14), warning that women were now experiencing honour-based abuse online.
The protocol said: “There is an increasing amount of online activity by perpetrators to monitor, publicly humiliate and threaten victims. With ever advancing technology, perpetrators are finding more and more ways to coerce and control their victims.
“Young and vulnerable individuals are particularly at risk. They are easily targeted through social media, as they build up their trust and make them believe that they are experiencing a true friendship or romantic relationship.”
Campaigners told Eastern Eye that while they welcome the move, they have been receiving calls from women being subjected to abuse online for a number of years.
Jasvinder Sanghera, CBE and the founder of Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports victims of forced marriage and honour-based abuse, said: “It’s good to see the CPS is going in the right direction, but we need to start training prosecutors and the police on how they need to handle this topic in the context of ‘honour’.
“And they must start speaking with survivors as they are the only ones who can tell you what this feels like.”
There are many ways in which women are now being targeted. Social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, give girls and women more visibility to the outside world, and if someone considers their behaviour “dishonourable”, they can tell their parents.
Or if their boyfriends have pictures of them on their mobile phones, especially ones showing intimacy, they can be used to blackmail them if the couple broke up. Installing spyware on computers, tracking mobile phones, and stealing passwords to monitor email communication are other ways to subject women to abuse.
Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters, said: “Nowadays, more and more of our relationships and social interactions are being conducted online.
“It’s a new space that’s opened up but it’s conductive to honour-based violence. The CPS and police should be working on this issue.”
In one case, the perpetrator harassed the victim for six months by bombarding her with text messages and stealing her mobile phone. He also threatened to post photographs and video recordings of the complainant and her family showering on the internet.
The defendant is also alleged to have sabotaged the victim’s arranged marriage by falsely posing as her fiance on Facebook and also stating that he was gay. The defendant pleaded guilty to other offences, including four counts of rape, one count of bigamy and one count of voyeurism, and was jailed for 16 years.
Campaigners are calling for more progress in securing convictions. Between 2015 and 2016, referrals of honour-based violence fell year-on-year, from 251 to 216, and 91 defendants were convicted.
The protocol forms part of a wider campaign launched by the CPS in October to deal with the threats posed online. The action plan includes a joint NPCC and CPS investigation and prosecution protocol, the granting of anonymity for victims of forced marriage, and more training for CPS staff to increase awareness.