What is violence?
The purpose of this page is to look at why violence against women and girls (VAWG) is wrong, the many types of violence, and how it can specifically affect women from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.
Violence against women is:
“any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Violence is against your human rights
It is important to understand that everyone in the world has the same rights to live a life free of violence. The Declaration of Human Rights was written to ensure that all people across the globe are equal and deserving of the same rights.
When women experience violence, it contradicts human rights like the following:
- The right to life
- The right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman and degrading way
- The right to respect for private and family life
- The right not to be discriminated against.
Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. You are not alone and it can be encouraging to know this so you can realise it is not your fault at all.
Your cultural or religious background does not make violence ok, even if someone tells you that it is ‘normal’. Women from any background may experience violence, but there are certain reasons why BME women may find it harder to leave a violent situation. For example, a fear of being deported, or not wanting to get your parents into trouble if you leave a forced marriage.
Types of violence
Below we describe some of the most common types of violence we see BME women and girls experiencing.
Apna Haq provides support for BME women living through any form of violence.
Domestic violence means violence that occurs in your home. It is usually done to you by your partner or ex-partner, husband or wife, but may also be by other family members.
It usually follows a pattern of control and intimidation (mental abuse) and can be accompanied by the use or threat of physical abuse (including sexual abuse). It can also include financial abuse where your partner is preventing you from having any money or can involve abuse of you online.
Domestic violence is against Islamic principles. For more information on what Islam says about domestic violence, go to The Conversation, or Imams Against Domestic Abuse. For information from a Sikh perspective, visit The Sikh Helpline.
Honour-based violence can occur in cultures or communities where men have the authority to control women’s actions or behaviour. If you do not ‘honour’ these rules, then you may be punished.
You have the right not to experience violence no matter your religion or culture.
Forced marriage is when someone (usually a member of your family) treats you with violent behaviour (mentally or physically) to force you to marry someone.
But it is your choice whether you marry or not. Forced marriage is illegal in England and Wales. It’s even illegal if they take you overseas to marry. It is completely against your rights to force you to marry anyone.
Female genital mutilation is when the female genitals are cut, altered or changed in ways that are not medically necessary. This may be common in your culture and carried out by someone who is not medically trained.
The procedure is against your rights and can be very damaging to your body. It can cause many issues in the future related to sex, childbirth and pain.
Human trafficking is when people are moved around to be exploited such as in forced labour or sexual exploitation. Their freedom is taken away from them as they are kept for the purposes of making profit.
It is a serious crime and against your human rights to be moved or kept anywhere without your consent. Even if a member of your family was the one who forced you to move or be exploited, it’s still a crime.
Sexual violence means any form of sexual activity that you did not want or consent to. There are many forms of sexual violence including: rape (both by a stranger and by your husband/partner); sexual abuse (including childhood sexual abuse); sexual harassment; prostitution; forced marriage; sexual exploitation; and many of the other forms of violence mentioned on this page.
Every form of sexual violence is wrong and not your fault at all. Even if the person is your husband or partner – it is still classed as sexual violence if you did not consent to the sexual activity.
This means you cannot access benefits from the government and you are financially dependent on your husband. This can happen if you come to the UK on a spouse visa, and you are dependent on your husband for your right to remain in the UK. It also means you are reliant on your husband as your `sponsor' to apply within two years for your own right to remain in the UK. During these two years, you have 'no recourse to public funds'.
There are three types of women who fall into no recourse:
- Women on spousal visas
- EU women who are not entitled to benefits
- Overstayer women (when you have stayed past your visa) with no legal status.
If you are experiencing violence during these two years you may find it very difficult to leave your husband because you are worried about finances. You may be feeling trapped and alone, which is completely understandable.
But help is available for women who come to the UK on a spouse visa and whose marriage has broken down due to domestic violence, EU women, and overstayer women. Apna Haq can give you advice on what your rights are or you can read about no recourse to public funds.
Are you finding it hard to report violence?
More BME women suffer from violence than women of other ethnic backgrounds and face many reasons why it is hard to report what is happening to them. These reasons include heightened forms of shame, stigma, isolation, cultural and religious constraints, racism, immigration insecurities and lack of awareness of their rights.
Since the British government made forced marriage illegal, the number of women coming forward for support has gone down. If you are also feeling worried because you don’t want to get your parents into trouble; you’re scared of being deported; or you're concerned about the impact on your wider family, then contact our staff team who understand these issues and will work with you.
If you are experiencing anything outlined on this page or think that what is happening to you is not right, please contact us without delay and we will help you. If you are in danger, please call 999.