JUN 12 - 14  


Honour, Violence Against Women and Girls and the Role of the Criminal Justice System in Addressing the Problem of Honour-based Violence

Professor Aisha K. Gill

University of Roehampton, UK

Professor Aisha K. Gill is a Professor in Criminology at University of Roehampton, UK. Her main areas of interest and research are health and criminal justice responses to violence against black, minority ethnic and refugee women in the UK, Iraqi Kurdistan and India. She has been involved in addressing the problem of violence against women at the grassroots level for the past seventeen years and has published widely in refereed journals such as Current Sociology, Feminist Legal Studies, Feminist Review, Journal of Gender Studies, and Women’s Studies International Forum.

June 22, 2016

Focussing on the European context, this paper introduces the central thesis that women and girls under threat of honour-based violence (HBV) are not served well by the various criminal justice system jurisdictions. It aims to do so by identifying and examining the institutions, structures and ideologies that underpin murder in the name of ‘honour’ and related harmful practices. Importantly, it aims to present an understanding of this phenomenon as a complex and multi-faceted form of violence against women and girls that is not reducible to any single factor such as culture, ethnicity, religion or nationality. Drawing on expertise in this field and from a wide range of cases in Europe, the author advances current understandings of the motivating factors behind HBV and the impediments to effective legal, political, economic and social responses.

The principal cause of this problem, it is argued, is the misapplication by the criminal justice system of the concept of ‘honour’ as well as a more general failure on the part of the policing and social welfare authorities to comprehensively understand HBV. The paper will discuss what these failures are in addition to how better frameworks for theorising, researching, intervening in and achieving justice for women and girls (and more rarely, men and boys) subjected to HBV can be developed? Theoretically, the approach involved includes a recognition how recently heightened awareness of this problem reflects essentialist paradigms for viewing and seeking to resolve the issue. What is needed instead is a better understanding of the role of the criminal justice system in enabling the realisation of individual women’s rights and the limits of the criminal justice system as an agent for structural change as well as for a stronger comprehension of women’s agency in the context of violence. This latter category encompasses both individual women’s lone and uncelebrated acts of resistance and women’s collective action. The paper also focuses on popular attitudes towards women as victims and men as perpetrators and emerging forms of victim support that might provide inspiration for an improved role for the criminal justice system.

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