What is Abuse?
There are many ways that an abuser can try to control their victim, but most fit into four main categories:
1. Physical abuse
This includes, but isn’t limited to, hitting, pushing, restraining and kicking.
2. Emotional abuse
Name-calling, constant criticism, constantly being shouted at, threats and isolating an individual from friends and family are all techniques of control.
3. Financial abuse
Taking by force an individual’s money, preventing them from working, or restricting, monitoring and controlling the spending of an individual with aim of depriving them of independence.
4. Sexual abuse
An abuser might force a woman to have sex or perform degrading acts to assert his control. No woman should feel pressurised or forced into doing something she is not comfortable with.
Anyone who is forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.
What is culture based abuse and exploitation?
Any attempts to deprive and restrict women of their human rights and harm and control them using culture & honour as a tool or justification. Most obvious examples include forced marriages, female genital mutilation and honour based violence. Awareness of these issues is now thankfully in the mainstream. However, there are still many other forms that remain less well known & understood and deprive women of their basic human rights, safety and freedoms including:
Sexual exploitation, control and rape
This includes the targeting and grooming of young girls & women by individuals or gangs for sex, and prostitution. Often women are targeted specifically for their vulnerability and because they are seen as less “honourable” or of a lesser culture. Many are also forced into compliance using honour based blackmail- with threats to “expose” her sexual activities. These threats work as once “exposed”, these women and girls become at risk of honour based violence and disownment by the family and community for “bringing shame”.
Aurat understands there are some families that do make nikah-only marriages and polygamy work and the wives understand that their marriage is not legally recognised. However there are far too many cases where men have taken on second, third or even fourth wives with women having no knowledge of each other OR that their marriage is not recognised by the law. This is important if these women (and their children) are abandoned, they have little rights to support from the husband and father leaving them vulnerable and open to abuse.
Domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse
A woman can face physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her spouse, her spouse’s family or her own. Often victims are women who have come from abroad for marriage and are distanced from their own family and friends and have little grasp of the English language or the help available to them.
Refusal to grant religious divorce
For most couples in south Asian communities, marriage consists of a civil procedure and religious ceremony and blessing. The civil component means that the marriage is recognised legally, however they won’t consider themselves truly married until a religious ceremony is conducted. The same applies for divorces too. Often, women are trapped in unhappy marriages and unable to move on and free themselves due to the husband refusing to agree to a religious divorce- either out of spite and control, or that it will bring shame upon his family. In some cases, the procedure to obtain a religious divorce is made so difficult, either by the husband or the religious authority being used (for example sharia courts) that women have no option but to remain in the relationship.
Drug & substance addiction
Women to cope with trauma may turn to and find themselves addicted to drugs. Many of those suffering feel isolated and are not sure where they can get help or find someone who will understand. Due to the strong cultural emphasis on honour and shame, these women are at risk if it should become known by the family and community that they are struggling with drugs.
LGBT women living in deeply orthodox and traditional communities often live deeply unhappy unfulfilled lives fearing what could happen to them if their families and wider community found out. The risk to these women are very real- whether it is depression, self harm and anxiety as a result of having to hide their sexuality, or the threat of violence, forced marriage, rape or disownment to force them to conform to traditional norms.
Whilst most of these issues impact South Asian communities, we recognise that victims of culture based abuse can be from all backgrounds and so we aim to support for all women, regardless of faith or cultural backgrounds. Hence our name: “Aurat” meaning simply “Women”