(Updates with police response, final three paragaphs)
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than one in five police forces in Britain are failing to record cases of ‘honour’-based violence, and this is putting lives in danger, a women's rights charity said in a report published on Thursday.
Many police officers still do not understand the 'honour' system, which punishes women and girls perceived to have brought shame on their family or community, the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO) said.
The violence occurs largely, but not exclusively, in communities with origins in the Middle East and South Asia, and can, for example, stem from a girl's refusal to marry the man her father has chosen for her.
"There may only be one chance to protect someone who is at risk from 'honour' killing," Diana Nammi, IKWRO's executive director, said in a statement.
"It is imperative that every police officer, from the telephone operator to those handling the case face to face, can identify an 'honour' based violence case, secure the trust of the victim and act appropriately to ensure that they are not further endangered, for example by never communicating with their family or community, from whom they are at risk."
The violence ranges from acid attacks, mutilation and rape to abduction, beatings and even murder, and is hard to prevent or tackle without better data and police training, said the report, Postcode Lottery: police recording of reported 'honour' based violence.
IKWRO carried out research in 2011 that suggested there were up to 3,000 cases of ‘honour’ violence in Britain every year.
IKWRO said ‘honour’-based cases can escalate quickly, from what might be interpreted as a trivial incident - for example, talk of being married off - to extreme violence and killing.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) issued new guidelines to help forces deal with potential ‘honour’ victims in 2008 after a series of high-profile ‘honour’ killings - including the gang rape and murder of Banaz Mahmod, a 20-year-old woman who asked the police for help five times before being killed by members of her family in 2006.
IKWRO said the definition of ‘honour’-based violence laid out by the independent police body was too vague, and contributed to inconsistencies in police records of ‘honour’ crimes and incidents.
Another problem was that some police forces, such as the London Metropolitan Police, record forced marriage cases separately from cases of ‘honour’-based violence, the charity said.
The report called for a wider definition of ‘honour’-based violence and a review of policing of such cases, among other recommendations.