This review is adapted from an original piece published in the Centre’s journal Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World.
Book review: Moving in the Shadows: Violence in the Lives of Minority Women and Children, edited by Yasmin Rehman, Liz Kelly and Hannana Siddiqui (Ashgate: Farnham, Surrey & Burlington, Vermont 2013)
Review by Jo Manby
Yasmin Rehman, a doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies specialising in polygyny and English law; Liz Kelly, Professor of Sexualised Violence at London Metropolitan University and Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU), and Hannana Siddiqui, who has worked at Southall Black Sisters for 25 years, bring together here contributions from a range of academics, activists and practitioners, examining for the first time in one volume violence against women and children within UK minority communities.
The book is divided into three parts:
- Forms and Contexts of Violence
- Interventions and Responses
It seeks to ‘explore both commonalities and differences in the lives of minority women – in the forms of violence they experience, their meanings and consequences’ (p.9).
Sharon Smee, a solicitor and Director of Gender Equality Consulting, advising on women’s rights policy, begins the book with an examination of existing knowledge of how Black and minority ethnic (BME) women negotiate the criminal justice system ‘as victims, offenders and practitioners’ (p.15). Pragna Patel, a founding member of Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism, acknowledging a social ‘shift from “multiculturalism” to “multi-faithism”’ (p.41), whereby the State and community leaderships have reduced ‘a complex web of social, political and cultural processes… into purely religious values’ (p.41), explores how this de-secularisation affects the ‘struggles for exit options in the face of violence and abuse’ (p.42) for South Asian women.
Jackie Turner then presents an analysis of the dynamics of trafficking as a women’s issue within a ‘continuum of violence against women’ (p.71). Shaminder Takhar looks at the way ‘living in the closet is preferable to “coming out” for some women due to the violence of internalized oppression and reprisals within the community’ (p.77) in her consideration of lesbianism and its perception by South Asian communities.
Forms and Contexts of Violence catalogues often harrowing details of the suffering of women and children, but includes recognition of the advances made by activists and campaigners to effect change. Dr Makeba Roach and Dr Comfort Momoh discuss the Fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK, pointing out the hypocrisy at stake in the condemnation of ‘the medicalisation of FGM in black and minority ethnic (BME) women and girls’ and the coexistent ‘ignoring [of] non-therapeutic cosmetic alteration to the genitals of (largely white) women performed in unregulated private operating theatres, NHS hospitals and piercing shops’ (p.92).
Ravi K. Thiara explores Post-separation Violence in the Lives of Asian and African-Caribbean Women; Carlene Firmin, Criminal Gangs, Male Dominated Services and the Women and Girls Who Fall Through the Gaps; and Emilie Secker and Yasmin Rehman tackle Possession or Oppression: Witchcraft and Spirit Possession Accusations as a Form of Ritual Abuse of Children and Women.
Chapters 9-11 approach the Difficulties Naming and Disclosing Sexual Violence in Hindi, where Swati Pande explores the language barrier hindering ‘Asian women’s access to services’ (p.155); “True Honour”: Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and Honour Crimes in the UK, in which Hannana Siddiqui presents the cases of two sisters, one of whom died in an honour killing after being ‘tortured, raped and sexually assaulted’ (p.174); and “It begins with Sister”: Polygyny and Muslims in Britain, where Yasmin Rehman concludes by urging the development of ‘more complex feminist analyses of harmful marriage practices including how such practices (re)produce gender inequality’ (p.199).
The third and final part of this valuable book, Interventions and Responses, includes chapters from two male contributors, Mohamed A. Baleela, Manager of Al-Aman Family Safety Project, part of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) and a trained violence prevention worker, and Phil Price, Project Manager of perpetrator services for the DVIP in London with responsibility for assessment and individual and group work with men around their use of violence and abusive behaviour to partners.
In addition, Ava Kanyeredzi presents Finding a Voice: African and Caribbean Heritage Women Help Seeking; Debora Singer, Women Seeking Asylum: Failed Twice Over; and Marai Larasi, A Fuss About Nothing?: Delivering Services to Black and Minority Ethnic Survivors of Gender Violence – The Role of the Specialist Black and Minority Ethnic Women’s Sector. Marai Larasi’s final sentence recapitulates one of the book’s key messages: ‘for BME feminist activists… we reserve the right to fight alongside white women for gender equality and the right to fight alongside BME men for “race” equality, but most importantly we reserve the right to speak for ourselves in all of our struggles and aspirations’ (p.280).