Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 14:52 UK

Abused Asian men's lives 'living hell'

By Sanjiv Buttoo
Asian Network

Bride and groom's hands
Some men are beaten if they do not provide enough money to their wife

More South Asian men married to British women are becoming the victims of domestic violence, it has been revealed.

The National Men's Advice Line found 9% of calls for help to its service last year were made by men originally from countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Pakistani Mahmood Muhammad (not his real name) married a British-born Asian woman four years ago. Her family promised him that he could finish his degree in Pakistan before joining her to live permanently in West Yorkshire.

His mother thought his future in-laws were an honourable family, so also decided to let his sister marry his wife's brother in the UK.

After marrying, Mahmood, who is in his 30s, travelled to visit his wife in the UK for a two-week holiday. He planned to return to Pakistan to finish studying. But hours after stepping off the plane his passport was confiscated by his wife's family and he was told he would not be going back.

All they wanted was someone to earn money for them. I was being treated like an animal
Mahmood Muhammad

His brothers-in-law threatened to harm him and his sister if he did not comply with their wishes, and by the end of his first week in Yorkshire he was being forcibly taken to factories in search of work.

He said: "All they wanted was someone to earn money for them. I was being treated like an animal.

"All my dignity and self-respect had been taken away and I was also worried about the threats to my sister. I was powerless to do anything to stop it."

Because of feelings of shame Mahmood decided not to tell his family back in Pakistan.

"My wife would wake me up in the middle of the night and beat me, demanding money, and when I did not have any, my brother-in-laws would come and punch me and beat my back with iron bars. It was a living hell."

For four years he was not allowed to meet his own sister, who lived at a separate address nearby, or even phone her, and the only contact they had was on a handful of occasions. She was also being beaten.

On one occasion, while she was pregnant, she was thrown down stairs, and on another she was punched in the face and pushed into a television.

The Pennine Domestic Violence Group, in Yorkshire, is now helping Mahmood to rebuild his life. In the past two years staff have noticed that more Asian men who are victims of domestic violence are beginning to leave their wives and seek help.

Acting director Rebecca Hirst said: "Although numbers are low, we know there are many men out there who are wanting help."

Men... choose to suffer in silence for the sake of respect
Shazia Qayum, Karma Nirvana

National helpline The Mankind Initiative said 7% of its clients last year came from an Asian background.

The National Men's Advice Line has also begun fielding more calls from abused men - in 2008, 89 of its 946 calls were from men of South Asian origin, and it fears there are many more suffering in silence.

Phone line co-ordinator Ippo Panteloudakis said: "We believe the number of Asian men is far higher than our figures suggest, because many Asian men don't access mainstream services for fear of being identified or because they are under cultural pressures not to admit they have a problem."

Karma Nirvana, a group which helps abused Asian men and women, believes most men do not seek help as many victims marry cousins and can share the same uncles, aunts and even grandparents.

Project team leader Shazia Qayum said: "Men would feel embarrassed to admit that they were having problems and choose to suffer in silence for the sake of respect."

"We are seeing the tip of a very large iceberg emerging, and eventually as this issue becomes more widely accepted, more and more men will come forward."

An Asian victim of domestic violence
Abused Asian men do not want to "shame" their families

Mahmood is all too familiar with how difficult cultural pressures can make it to leave a violent relationship.

"I know many other Asian men who are suffering, but how can we just leave and go back home, it would be so shameful for us and our families."

Three months ago Mahmood was beaten in the street by his sister's husband. After she ran out to plead with him to stop, the siblings managed to get into a passing car and escape from their spouses. But they both left their children behind.

Mahmood said: "I have two daughters, but have not seen my youngest child who was only born recently. My sister has managed to get custody of her children, but I will have to endure a long legal process to see mine again.

"I always ask myself how can people be so cruel to other human beings.

"I would have been better off living in Pakistan. At least then I would not have been mentally, physically and verbally abused over a period of four long years."

You can hear more at 1230 and 1800 BST on the BBC's Asian Network or via the BBC


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