Celine Dookhran’s body was found dead in the fridge of a one and a half million-pound home in south-west London. A post-mortem report said that the 19-year-old died from a slit throat.
The Indian Muslim teen was kidnapped, raped, and murdered on July 19. The body was found after a second woman, who had also been attacked, alerted officials from her hospital bed.
The murder, as reported in court, was a suspected “honor killing” – one of the four types of honor violence. Incidences of honor violence include: honor killings, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and domestic violence. Honor killings are defined as “the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor on the family.” As reported in a Westat study, such murders are unfortunately not isolated practices.
Reportedly, the two women were bound, gagged, and then taken by masked men to a house in Kingston-upon-Thames on July 19. Both women were then raped, and their throats were slit. The second woman, who notified officials of Dookhran’s whereabouts, survived.
Mujahid Arshid, 33, was charged for the murder of Dookram, attempted murder, and two counts of rape and kidnap. His co-defendant, Vincent Tappu, 28, appeared alongside Arshid in court, and was charged with assisting in the kidnapping of both women.
Prosecutor Binita Roscoe told the court, “The deceased was involved in a relationship with an Arab Muslim.” Allegedly, this relationship was disapproved of, which led to the murder.
“[The surviving victim’s] face and mouth were covered in duct tape,” Roscoe said. “Her hands were tied with cable ties and her feet were tied with rope. She believes a sock was placed in her mouth. She had heard the deceased who was in the shower screaming.”
“The deceased was brought down tied up. They were bound in dust sheets and placed in a vehicle.”
Statistics from the Honor Based Violence Awareness Network report that there are an average of 5,000 reported honor killings occur each year. Out of that number, 2,000 of these honor killings happen in India and Pakistan. Twelve per year occur in the U.K.
But, according to the study performed by Westat, a U.S. research corporation, for the U.S. Department of Justice, “There is no reliable summary data available … regarding the prevalence of honor violence. The Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) and the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) first research effort related to honor violence [showed that] no earlier studies [were done].”
These statistics may not accurately reflect the actual number of honor killings that occur each year. As further studies suggest, an accurate count of these killings is likely to be significantly higher.
As noted in the same study, the following variables in honor killings and violence also prevent the accurate recording of how often these crimes occur. For one, information concerning these crimes is often contained within the family, certain members of whom are usually the perpetrators of said crimes. Also, victims may not report victimization to avoid extremely negative family response or repeated instances of the abuse they have suffered. Lastly, victims may not report information on crimes committed against them because, in their home country, honor killings and/or honor violence is a social norm – not a crime.
These crimes, said the Westat study, their frequency, and how hard they are to identify, all have roots in their status as a “part of a self-sustaining social system built on the ideas of honor and cultural, ethnic, and religious superiority.”
The most common demographics of honor violence victims and culprits in the U.K are immigrants and descendants from South Asia and the Middle East, studies said.
In a Times article on the global epidemic of honor killings, international human rights lawyer and global media commentator Arsalan Iftikhar said, “Even cultures that do not explicitly support the killing of women still see their women die at the hands of men.”
Iftikhar mentions a September 2015 report from the Violence Policy Center that stated that 94 percent of female homicide victims in the U.S. “were brutally murdered by either a known male relative or acquaintance.” Iftikhar highlighted the importance of emphasizing that these cases of violence against women are not just a “Muslim problem.”
“By making something a Muslim problem,” she explained, “non-Muslims often manage to distance themselves from an issue they should recognize. Just because ‘honor killings’ have a moniker that elicits sensationalistic media headlines around the world, it does not mean that they are meaningfully different from the other more clearly secular forms of domestic abuse against women that occur every day.”
Additionally, Human Rights Activist and Director of Programs at Physicians for Human Rights Widney Brown told National Geographic, “In countries where Islam is practiced, they’re called ‘honor killings,’ but dowry deaths and so-called crimes of passion have a similar dynamic in that the women are killed by male family members, [but] the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable.”
It is clear that this gruesome global issue is not exclusive to Islam and needs to be addressed in a significant way.
Both suspects for Dookhran’s murder are being held in police custody until the next court hearing at the Old Bailey Court on August 21.
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