By Shaista Gohir

Itís Human Rights Day today and I want to talk about the ethnic minority femicide victims in the UK. Black, South Asian, Arab and other ethnic minority women tend to only get media and government attention when violence and abuse they experience is related to culture such as forced marriage, honour-based violence, female genital mutilation. There have been numerous campaigns and grants readily been made available to eliminate these practices. But what about domestic abuse? It the main killer for women of all ethnicities. Murders by strangers, such as in the cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, also tend to stimulate more outrage. However, I am outraged because women and girls are being killed every week, currently averaging three women a week, mostly by men known to them such as family member or partners or ex-partners. Why then, is little attention paid to change the behaviour of men?
The initiative also highlights other important information about the women such as their ages, locations and whether they were pregnant or had children. 
Karen Ingala Smith has done a great job to ensure the names of women killed by men remain in our conscious through her Dead Women Counting page. Jess Phillips also makes sure that law makers know about them too when she reads their names in parliament. Although these lists also include named of ethnic minority women, their numbers are often masked. It is important to know their numbers to better understand whether enough is being done to also protect women from racialised minority communities. For example, are police responses adequate, are women aware of the support that is available and is sufficient public funding available for specialist services?

The national charity, Muslim Womenís Network UK, is attempting to count ethnic minority femicide victims in the UK through a searchable remembrance page, Say Her Name, which was set up during the 16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women and girls, which began on 25th November and concludes today. The initiative also highlights other important information about the women such as their ages, locations and whether they were pregnant or had children. It is not an exhaustive list as the names are based on information found online, which means the actual numbers are likely to be higher. Most of the women have been killed or allegedly murdered (where ongoing cases are concerned) by a male partner or family member or person known to them. To accompany the page, a short powerful film (trigger warning) has also been launched.
...of 139 femicides in 2013, 28% (39) were ethnic minority women, but only make up 14% of the population

Although itís impossible to say with any certainty whether femicide affects racialised minority communities more than majority white communities, in some years, it does appear that the domestic femicide rates have been higher. For example, of the 139 femicides in 2013, according to our list (which we know is not exhaustive) 28% (39) were ethnic minority women but only make up 14% of the population (according to the 2011 Census). A further breakdown of the statistics reveals that 17% (24 women) were South Asian despite only being around 7% of the population. I wonder whether the spike in the femicide rate in 2013 is linked to the change in immigration rules that occurred for those on spousal visas. In 2012, the qualifying period for applying for Ďindefinite leave to remainí changed from two years to five years. Did female spouses from abroad feel not able to leave abusive relationships due to their immigration status being insecure for longer? Although the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession policy was also introduced the same year, (which would have allowed access to public funds), its awareness may have taken time to filter through. This policy has clearly been saving lives. Also, British women who were married to male spouses from abroad may have been pressured by their families to remain in abusive marriages so as not to jeopardise their immigration status.

The femicides rates were also higher in 2018 where of 154 women killed, 27 (17.5%) were ethnic minority women. More recent femicide statistics covering the Covid pandemic period need to be examined once the new Census 2021 data is released for a more accurate comparison. Although there are no clear explanations for the apparent higher femicide rates, questions do arise whether sufficient specialist support is available and funded, whether police responses are satisfactory, and whether there is sufficient awareness of the rates of domestic abuse and femicide within these communities. More robust data is also needed to ensure these groups receive sufficient attention. For example, FOI requests to the police often reveal that there is inconsistency in the way UK police forces assign ethnicity classifications.

It is not just the responsibility of mainstream services and government to prevent and eliminate abuse; influential figures and institutions in minority communities also have a role to play such as faith leaders, mosques, temples, churches as well as niche community media. In fact, violence, abuse and harassment of women and girls whether at home, at work, socially or in public including on social media is everybodyís business. Only when everyone plays their part to spot the signs, call it out, challenge it and report it, will we be able to shift the needle on the rates of rape, domestic abuse and murders Ė currently they are going in the wrong direction.

Say Her Name searchable page can be found here.

Say Her Name short film can be found here.

If you are experiencing abuse or suspect someone is, then you can contact the Muslim Women' Network Helpline on 0800 999 5786 www.mwnhelpline.co.uk


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