Finland: Increase in honour-related violence

Apparently there have been honor murders in Finland, but not in Helsinki, as far as the police are aware.

Young immigrant women who have lived in Finland for a number of years, are most likely to face conflicts between norms of Finnish society and their own culture.  Women like these are the ones that most frequently contact Monika - Naiset liitto, a multicultural organisation set up ten years ago to help immigrant women and children who face domestic violence, says Reet Nurmi, the organisation's executive director.

Nurmi defines honour-related violence as actions perpetrated by those who feel that a woman's behaviour has hurt the honour of her husband or family.  There are no precise figures on the frequency of the problem. Monika-Naiset was contacted 28 times last year over alleged honour-related violence.

According to the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, domestic conflicts involving issues of honour have emerged among immigrants from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan.

Reet Nurmi says that the police do not always know how to investigate the cultural factors behind acts of violence.  Honour killings have taken place in Finland, Nurmi says. "Naturally, they do not go directly into the knowledge of the media, bot women have told about them."

However, Kari Tolvanen of the violent crimes unit of the Helsinki Police denies that honour killings had taken place in Helsinki. He adds that all suspicious cases have been "thoroughly" investigated.  "Some acts of violence linked with honour have been uncovered. For instance, we have worked with social welfare officials to hide a potential victim, a girl, from her own family." 

Tolvanen says that it is difficult to approach the cases, because immigrant communities are often very closed.

An immigrant woman living in Finland often becomes the victim of domestic violence when the perpetrator feels that his power is diminished.  "A woman will want to go to work and earn her own money, or will not want to have any more children", Reet Nurmi says.

Immigrant women also know their rights better than before. Nevertheless, family violence is often not recognised, and it remains hidden.  "If the women are asked if they have experienced violence, they might answer no - no bones have been broken and no shots were fired."

Some of the women want to leave their violent husbands quietly. "Making a criminal complaint involves crossing a big threshold. One's own position is always weak in a foreign country."

The shelter maintained by Monika-Naiset has room for eight people, and there is a constant queue to get in.
Nurmi emphasises that resorting to violence is always the choice of an individual. Nevertheless, upbringing and cultural background are factors, which stay with a person even in a foreign country.  Work to help immigrants integrate also helps prevent violence, Nurmi emphasises.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat (English), h/t Tundra Tabloid (English)

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