Sex Selective Abortion and Honour Based Violence

Over the last few months, the topic of sex selective abortion has become an increasingly worrying issue for campaigners, providers and policy-makers alike. On 23rd February 2015, MPs will vote on an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill that explicitly criminalises sex selective abortion. The move has been driven by the well known pro-life MP Fiona Bruce, and is strongly supported by some charities that work specifically with victims of honour abuse and forced marriage.

As you may know, I’m a survivor of honour abuse and I escaped the threat of forced marriage at the age of twelve. I have been writing for several years to raise awareness of these issues, and up until recently have been a member of the Survivors’ Advisory Panel for one of the UK’s main charities providing support to victims of such abuses. This organisation has been a key stakeholder in the campaign to criminalise sex selective abortion. I also work full time as Executive Assistant to the CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of the UK’s main abortion providers. I have a unique perspective on the issue, and am deeply worried that we are not only sleepwalking into a large scale attack on reproductive rights in general, but that vulnerable women in abusive situations will be victimised further as a result. Continue reading

Islam and Honour Abuse

Over the last year, I’m delighted to have made some great strides mental health-wise in continuing to heal from some pretty painful life experiences. I’ve become stronger in my purpose of helping others who might need support in identifying, escaping and recovering from honour abuse, and I’m glad that people finally appear to be paying attention to the issues involved, although there is much work yet to do. There’s little doubt, however, that a great deal of this interest from many quarters stems from the fact that I am quite willing at times to link Islam to my story as a cause or reason for the abuse.

I was interviewed recently by a PhD student in criminal justice from the US, whose research on institutional responses to honour abuse will be used to inform policy there. I definitely do not include this lovely woman as being one of those parties who is only interested in hearing what I have to say for its reinforcement of prejudiced thinking. But she did ask as part of her pre-prepared questions (as it was absolutely right of her to do given the current political climate) if I thought honour abuse had anything to do with religion. It was, of course, a loaded question. Continue reading

Lil’ Kim, My Feminist Hero

Without realising it as I danced and sang along to Lil’ Kim’s lyrics at the age of thirteen, I had found my first feminist role model. An unlikely candidate perhaps for a Scottish Pakistani teenager, but at the time Lil’ Kim’s music perfectly encapsulated my feelings of gender-imprisoned rage, as well as delightfully shocking me with its audacity.

At that time, I had not long been dramatically freed from the terrifying misery experienced by all too many young girls and women living under strict regimes of Islamic domestic dictatorship. If I were asked to imagine the polar opposite of feminine propriety as imposed by my parents, I couldn’t have dreamt Lil’ Kim up. She got naked a lot. She rapped in graphic detail about sex, once to the background sound of a woman having a looooong, loud orgasm. And she did it all in public. In short, she didn’t give a fuck.

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On Beauty

There are some days when I would like nothing more than to hide my face from the world and be free of the incredible pressures most women face in their relationship with their own body. In recent weeks, I’ve felt more weary than usual of being seen simply as a style of woman rather than a person. You ladies know what I mean, right? Are you the fun, leggy blond? Ice cool designer diva? Crazy punk princess? I could, of course, go on. And most of you who dare convey personality traits that don’t adhere to the image portrayed by your clothes, accessories and make-up (unless of course you are of the equally carefully constructed yet apparently au naturel variety) have come across that ignoramous who gasps, “You’re so different to how I expected you to be!” Well, duh, what makes you think you know a person when you’ve shown zero curiosity about my experience of the world?!

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