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"Honour Violence" - A Threat To Immigrant Women

Immigrant women in Finland are increasingly the victims of violence perpetrated in the name of family honour. In Helsinki, twice as many immigrant women have sought protection this year from violence than in previous years.

Naisen varjo betoniseinässä.
Image: Alaa Badarneh/EPA

Nasima Razmyar, who herself came to Finland as a refugee from Afghanistan, has been taking in growing numbers of immigrant women and girls at the Monika House shelter in Helsinki's Sörnäinen district. Some of these women have been forced into marriages, some beaten for disobedience or even threatened with death.

This year, within just six months more than 30 women have sought refuge from honour violence at the facility. That is as many as during the whole of last year. As the coordinator at Monika House, Nasima Razmyar has the impression that the rise can be explained by growing numbers of women of marriageable age.

"Second generation immigrants are at just the age, around twenty and marriageable, when the situation starts being strongly seen," says Razmyar.

Honour violence involves the subjugation of a woman within some ethnic groups carried out with the intent of controlling her sexual behaviour. It has been rumoured at Monika House that there have been honour killings in Finland, acts in which a family has decided to kill a disobedient daughter who, for example, has refused an arranged marriage.

Police have not confirmed the rumours, but according to Chief Inspector Veli Hukkanen of the Helsinki Police, threatening behaviour has indeed been on the rise. One problem is that the police do not keep statistics on honour violence.

"Statistics are not available for many reasons, some tactical. In order to secure an individual's situation and protect her, it may not be sensible to file a criminal report," explains Hukkanen.

However, police believe that only a small fraction, probably less that 5% of all honour violence incidents come to light. The seriousness of the phenomenon is not understood, even by the officials dealing with it.

"More familiarity by officials with other cultures is needed. Women and family members from certain cultures come to tell of these problems, of the violence or that they are being frightened and threatened. They should be met by with a different attitude," says Chief Inspector Veli Hukkanen.

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