The Foreign Office hosted a film screening of ‘A Girl in the River’ on Wednesday 20 July. Directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the Oscar-winning documentary follows the true story of Saba, an eighteen year girl who survives an honour killing attempt by her father and uncle.
The screening is part of the Foreign Office’s campaign to highlight the pervasiveness of honour killings and help create opportunities for it to be discussed more openly in Pakistani society and government. The documentary was recently shown to Foreign Office staff in Pakistan and the country’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, also hosted a screening in Islamabad.
Protecting women and girls is crucial to the future stability and prosperity of Pakistan. Legislation intended to benefit women is often poorly implemented, social norms hold back progress, and attempts to advance women’s rights face opposition, particularly from religious voices. Ensuring that women’s rights are safeguarded, that they are able to take part in political processes, and that they are able to participate fully in conflict resolution are priorities for the UK.
At the screening, director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said:
The documentary has galvanized Pakistan and initiated a national conversation about honour killings and their role in society, with a major push being made to encourage all political parties to pass the Anti-honour killings bill which will no longer allow forgiveness in honour killing cases.
Screening this documentary at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the UK will further spur support for the victims of honour killing world over, and send out a strong message that this practice is not a part of our culture or religion.
Joanna Roper, Director of Consular Services at the Foreign Office, said:
The Foreign Office is delighted to host Sharmeen and show her inspiring film. This screening will raise awareness of this important issue to show there is no honour in honour killings. That’s why the FCO hosts the Forced Marriage Unit, whose work is vital in working to eradicate forced marriage and associated honour based violence.
- The Foreign Office campaigns to raise awareness of forced marriage as an important issue that affects both British nationals and the local communities in Pakistan. Forced marriage is closely linked to honour-based violence. The trigger for an honour crime or honour killing is often resistance to a forced marriage, marrying for love without the approval of family, or fleeing a forced marriage after it has taken place.
- The UK’s dedicated Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) leads efforts to combat it both at home and abroad. Jointly run by the Home Office and the Foreign Office, the FMU provides assistance including safety planning to prevent forced marriages (both in the UK and abroad), supporting victims to return from overseas, and in extreme circumstances rescuing victims held against their will overseas.
- In 2015, the FMU handled cases relating to 67 countries to which a victim was at risk of, or had already, been taken to in connection with a forced marriage. The five highest volume countries in 2015 were:
- Pakistan: 539 cases (44%).
- Bangladesh: 89 cases (7%).
- India: 75 cases (6%).
- Somalia: 34 cases (3%).
- Afghanistan: 21 cases (2%).
- The FMU delivers over 100 training events a year for professionals from all agencies as well as voluntary and community sector organisations to help embed the guidance and promote good practice. The FMU developed forced marriage e-learning for professionals which enables professionals to recognise the warning signs of forced marriage and ensure that the right action is taken to help protect those at risk.
- DFID’s ‘Aawaz’ Voice and Accountability programme focuses on women’s empowerment and participation in decision making and politics at the local, provincial and national levels in Pakistan. Aawaz civil society partners, working with key government and non-government allies, played an active role in the development of, and advocating for, the recently enacted Protection of Women Against Violence Act in the Punjab.