Denmark: First shelter for couples

Denmark: First shelter for couples

Young couples of foreign background can now seek shelter from honor related violence in Denmark's first shelter for both men and women. Single men will have to continue to seek shelter.

In the past young people of foreign background who were in love were forced to separate in order to find shelter from honor related violence. Today they have another option: Behind bulletproof glass in a secret place in Denmark is the country's first shelter for couples.

Anita Johnson, the manager, says that in the past they had to deny men a place and find them a place by friends or in a summer cottage with an attack alarm. It was an untenable solution, since the men were often completely isolated and didn't get the help they needed, bu also because the couple, who had been forced to break up with their family, friends and everyday life, were now being forced to lose contact with each other.

She emphasizes that men of foreign background - in contrast to what many people think - are not always free of honor-related conflicts.

The new shelter can house five couples for a period of up to a year. since opening, fifteen couples turned to the shelter, three of whom were accepted. In all cases the threats were directed at both the man and the woman. Two of the men had been beaten so violently that they had to seek emergency care.

The Police National Investigation Center (NEC) says that a faster response and enhanced cooperation between the police and the shelters means that the conflicts rarely develop to the stage of attempted murder or murder. Threats, harassment and violence do continue and a very real part of the threats are directed at men, not just at women.

Kim Kliver of the NEC says that women are the most threatened, but the threats come off on the men. If they're in a relationship that the family doesn't like, they risk being subjected to both verbal and physical violence, just like the women. The man aren't free of the conflict just because they're men.

The National Organization for Women's Shelters (LOKK) have been calling for shelters for men for years. The organization has been running an anonymous hot-line for young men of foreign background since 2002, and in that period had seen a marked increase of inquiries from men. While in 2008, just eight men turned to the hot-line, in 2009, 40 did. And 25 men had turned for help in the first six month of 2010. Some of the men who call are part of a couple, but most are single.

Lene Johannesson of LOKK says that they are men who are forced to marry against their will or gay men who fear their family. They don't really have anything to offer these men, they end up with untenable solutions by friends, in summer cottages or in shelters where they don't belong.

The new shelter for couples of foreign background is run by the rehabilitation center for ethnic women in Denmark and financed by the government.

Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)