Page last updated at 01:41 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 02:41 UK

Call to prevent domestic violence

Banaz Mahmod
Banaz Mahmod was the victim of an 'honour killing'

Children must be taught about domestic violence, honour-based crimes and forced marriages, MPs have said.

The Home Affairs Select Committee also criticised the "desperate shortage" of refuge spaces and emergency accommodation for victims.

It said there must be a shift in focus away from the criminal justice system towards prevention.

Two women are killed every week in the UK by husbands, boyfriends or former partners, the report said.

Teaching on domestic violence and forced marriage was "variable" at best and at worst "non-existent," MPs said.

They said the issue should be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

Urgent action

The MPs also suggested there should be a public education campaign about all the issues involved in domestic violence, along the lines of the Think! road safety campaign.

Doctors and nurses should also be required to undergo training in identifying domestic violence victims, they said.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "We educate our young people about the dangers of drugs but not, it seems, about domestic and 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage which, sadly, will affect a quarter of all women in their lifetime and many men too.

"The committee would like to see urgent action taken to ensure greater emphasis on prevention of this very damaging, very disruptive - and very costly - crime."

Domestic violence is the largest cause of morbidity in women aged 19-44
Home Office figures suggest there are around 12 "honour" killings each year, but the total is likely to be far higher
The government's Forced Marriage Unit deals with 5,000 enquiries and 300 cases of forced marriage each year.

The report also urged ministers to ensure there are enough domestic violence refuge spaces across the country, describing the current situation as a "postcode lottery".

Domestic violence cost the UK £25.3bn in 2005/06 in terms of expenses incurred on public services, losses to the economy and costs to the victim, the report said.

The true cost is likely to be much higher as not all crimes are reported to police, it added.

The MPs said a specialised victim protection programme, similar to witness protection, should be developed for women fleeing so-called honour-based violence.

National strategy

Marriage visas are still being granted in some cases where the visa sponsor has been forced into the act by his or her family and compelled to sponsor the visa, they said.

The report recommended sponsors should be interviewed by officials whenever there is a suspicion of forced marriage, by a GP or another third party.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "The government must prioritise developing a national strategy to end all forms of violence against women."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said it welcomed the report: "We are determined to do all we can, working with schools, local authorities and communities, to tackle the issue of forced marriage which is a form of child abuse.

"Child abuse is completely unacceptable. There are no excuses and the government shares the committee's concern about the abuse and harm to children caused by domestic violence and forced marriage."

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said of the report: "Here is yet more evidence of the appalling lack of services for the 3 million women who each year experience violence.

"Last November, we published jointly with the End Violence Against Women coalition a report which highlighted the full extent of this ‘postcode lottery’.

"It’s now time we saw some action to address this undeclared war on women. The Government and local authorities must begin by ensuring that more women have adequate support when they need it most."

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