On the 14th July, 2017, I was invited to perform at an event called “Remembering Shafilea: A partnership approach to tackling forced marriage and honour based violence”. The event was organised by West Midlands Police, as part of their OurGirl UK event and it consisted of speeches from human rights activists, campaigners, charities as well as individuals from government bodies. As an activist and a critic of political policing, I went to support this event because I felt as though this was an area where the police were getting it right, they were listening to community organisations and were working with the community to tackle honour based violence and bring the perpetrators to justice – even when the perpetrators would publicly go on mainstream media and accuse those well intentioned police officers as being “racist”. But the event highlighted one thing which was made apparent to me ever since I, creatively, got involved in this field of work: The lack of Asian & Muslim men speaking out against gender inequality and honour based violence.

When people think of honour killings, they usually think of communities that originate from the Indian subcontinent and therefore think that honour killing is something that “they” do, that it is part of “they’re” culture. This is essentially a racist viewpoint and in regards to this, I invoke something, human rights activist & film maker, Deeyah Khan said in her ted talk “I assure you being murdered is not my culture”.

Honour, in this case, is used to police behaviour & control the body in order to preserve the family name, which in most cases is the surname of the father figure. Therefore honour codes operate in a patriarchal system designed to protect the honour of the male family members, by policing the behaviour of those who can bring dishonour to the family, namely westernised female members of the family but in contemporary times this can also include members from the LGBTQ community as well. But statistically speaking, Honour killing is seen as a women’s rights issue as those who are victims of honour killings are mainly women and the perpetrators are mainly men.

Honour killing is usually connected to the issue of forced marriages and therefore this places honour killing within the broader framework of gender inequality, because it takes away the fundamental right to choose how you want to live your life and who you want to marry, as well as gender based violence.

Early on in the year, I came out with a spoken word video called “Death Before Dishonour #EndHonourKillings” to create more awareness about the issue. This track has enabled me to get more involved with those who are at the front line of challenging gender inequality and gender based violence. It is through this experience that I came to see, not only just a lack of Asian men speaking out against gender based violence, that there are subtle cues of gender inequality within our own community.

The biggest example of this is the issue of womens spaces in mosques whether it’s the actual lack of spaces or the quality of those spaces but more subtle forms include “advice” given by those in religious authority for women to be more obedient wives to disobedient husbands but when it comes to disobedient housewives, the husband is encouraged to separate or the idea that women participating in public life is seen as a temptation. These attitudes are usually fostered in places that cannot be accessed by members of the opposite gender and this is why I believe that men need to do a lot more to challenge gender inequality and gender based violence, especially in those social gatherings incubating these ideas.

We are living in a world of profound change and in the West Muslim women have overcome enormous obstacles in order to be more involved in public life. However in other instances, Muslim women have also lost their lives as well and it is due to this and the changes that are occurring, I, and many others like me, believe that we, as a community, really need to have deep discussions about gender inequality so that it can be challenged whenever it rears its ugly head.

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