Rooms of Their Own

Support groups for minority women struggle to stay afloat

01 March 2016
Apna Haq is one of 34 BME-specialist anti-domestic-abuse groups in the United Kingdom.
courtesy apna haq
Apna Haq is one of 34 BME-specialist anti-domestic-abuse groups in the United Kingdom.
courtesy apna haq

Five years ago, a woman emigrated from the Indian state of Punjab to London to pursue a business degree. She had only begun adjusting to her new life when her university was abruptly shut down, and she found herself with little to do. Three months later, her family got her married to a British-born man of Indian descent. Four months after the wedding, her husband and his family began to physically, mentally and verbally abuse her. “They treated me like a prisoner,” she said. “I couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t phone my brother or my family.”

After suffering about three years of this abuse, the woman visited her brother in Rotherham, a sleepy town in northern England. When the time came to return to her husband’s house, her in-laws phoned, saying they would not take her back. “Keep her,” they told her brother. Shortly after this, her husband arrived drunk at her brother’s doorstep, and threatened to kill him. The woman contacted the police, who told her about Apna Haq, a local rehabilitation centre for victims of domestic violence.

For over a year now, she has been using the organisation’s services. The woman, now 32 years old, met me in Apna Haq’s office last December. She said that, for a long time, she had hesitated to seek help because she worried about the damage it might inflict on her “reputation and family name.”

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    Omkar Khandekar is a journalist from Mumbai, and an alumnus of Cardiff University. His reporting from India, the Maldives and the United Kingdom has appeared in numerous publications, including The CaravanOpen and Scroll.

    Keywords: women UK rehabilitation suicide domestic BME women's refuge support group United Kingdom minority youth services race Rotherham honour based violence homicide violence child sexual exploitation