By Baroness Shaista Gohir OBE (CEO of Muslim Women's Network UK)
Last week Kashif Anwar was found guilty of murdering his wife Fawziyah Javed in September 2021. He may have been sentenced to serve 20 years, but he will be able to build his life again because by the time he is released he will be in his late 40s and that is if he serves his full sentence. It is Fawziyah’s family who have been sentenced to a life of grief. Fawziyah was an only child and her parents will never overcome the devastating impact of her murder and any punishment for Mr. Anwar will not bring closure or provide full justice. To improve justice, perpetrators such as Mr. Anwar should not only be given maximum sentences but should also be required to serve them fully. It is time sentencing guidelines are also reformed for femicide so that sentences are higher with longer minimum terms. At present sentences are not sufficiently tough enough for intimate partner abuse and femicide.
This case highlights the importance of friends, family, colleagues and the public to report abuse when it is witnessed or suspected. Concerns about Fawziyah’s wellbeing had already been reported to the police which provided crucial evidence during the trial. Fawziyah had planned to leave her abusive husband with the support of family, friends and colleagues, but Mr. Anwar took her life and that of her unborn child before she was able to escape. In the lead up to her murder, the trial heard how Mr. Anwar abused and controlled Fawziyah. The abuse was not always behind closed doors and there were witnesses to the abuse who came forward and gave evidence during the trial. Fawziyah’s family certainly acted once they became aware of the abuse and encouraged her to report it to the police and urged her to leave Mr. Anwar. But how about family members of Mr. Anwar? The couple were living with his parents. Why did they not challenge their son? I understand that to date they have not shown any remorse either.
There is a tendency to protect male perpetrators and blame female victims thus normalising abusive behavior. This cycle of cultural misogyny needs to be broken
I know domestic abuse takes place in every community but there is an added layer of misogyny due to cultural attitudes in some communities. South Asian families are an example of this where the women family members also peddle sexism. There is a tendency to protect male perpetrators and blame female victims thus normalising abusive behaviour. This cycle of cultural misogyny needs to be broken through awareness raising. However, such campaigns cannot just be the responsibility of women’s groups; mosques and temples also need to be involved because they can reach the potential perpetrators - the men.
If action is not taken, the number of women murdered by a partner or another family member will continue to rise. Current femicide statistics of Black, Asian and minority ethnic women are concerning. Through the initiative, Say Her Name, Muslim Women’s Network UK publishes names of the minority ethnic women that have been murdered by a male perpetrator. When the statistics are compared to the ‘Counting Dead Women’ list compiled by activist Karen Ingala Smith, Black, Asian and minority ethnic women are disproportionately overrepresented in some years. For example, last year 28 (26%) of the 107 victims were minority ethnic, even though these communities make up 18% of the population (according to the 2021 Census) and in 2021, they made up 19% of the victims.
We miss and think about Fawziyah every second of every day. We are not living anymore, but just existing.”
Fawziyah was a young 31 year old Muslim woman of Pakistani heritage, a successful lawyer and a mother to be; she had her whole life ahead of her. During her short life she touched the lives of many people, volunteering for many charities including for Muslim Women’s Network UK, mentoring children, feeding the homeless and fund raising for humanitarian causes. My thoughts are with Fawziyah’s family, especially her mother Yasmin Javed. Both mother and daughter were members of the charity that I run, Muslim Women’s Network UK. I pray along with our staff and trustees that she has the strength to endure the great pain of losing her only child. Here are some words from a statement she released, which are heart breaking to read and no parent should have to go through such a traumatic ordeal so please reach out to anyone you suspect is suffering abuse and offer to help.
Yasmin Javed (Fawziyah’s mother) said:“I have no words to truly describe the depths of our pain and grief. It is immeasurable and unimaginable. To say that we are going through the most torturous and devastating time does not even come close. Since that fateful evening our lives and our world has been destroyed. Fawziyah has left a humongous void in our lives. The spark has gone out of our lives forever. We have been left in depths of darkness to suffer this life-long loss. We miss and think about Fawziyah every second of every day. We are not living anymore, but just existing.”We miss and think about Fawziyah every second of every day. We are not living anymore, but just existing.”
If you or anyone you know are affected by any form of abuse, please contact the Muslim Women’s Network Helpline on 0800 999 5786 / email@example.com/ 07415 206936 (text) /www.mwnhelpline.co.uk (webchat).
The vigil in September 2022 that was held in honour of Ms. Javed to mark the one year anniversary of her death can be found here.
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