Mediation failed victims of honour based violence

Social services have failed repeatedly when trying to mediate in families where the daughters have been the victims of so called honour based violence, Swedish Radio's Kaliber reports. Now the method is criticised for risking the well-being of the young women.

There were 21 girls and young women taking part in the project at Linnamottagningen in Stockholm, which aimed at changing the values of families. Most of the girls were in the care of the social services, sometimes their father had been sentenced for abusing them, in all cases their lives were severely restricted by strict family rules. The hope was that the project would reunited the girls with their families.

But the mediation did not pan out the way it was planned. Several parents said they were willing to change their attitudes, but when the girls returned home it turned out the parents had been lying.

"Traditionally the social services have always worked to solve conflicts so that young people can be reunited with the family and so that the family can have an ok relation to the young person. But we think this almost encourages the parents to be dishonest," says Pia Svedberg, social worker in charge of the project.

She says, in several cases, it was clear that the parents just said what they knew the social services wanted to hear, in order to get their daughter back and return to the honour related system. After they returned to their families, several of the girls were married off against their will. One of them has disappeared, and one has been murdered.

The head of Linnamottagningen, Azam Qarai, says they have not succeeded with what they set out to do in any of the 21 cases. She is very critical and wants to warn others of this type of work.

"It is important to emphasise that we have to be very cautions with these ambitions, because we are risking the lives to the youth. A very stark warning," she says. Azam Qarai is sure that the girl who was killed would have been alive today, if she had not returned to her family.

According to Kaliber, there are plans in several local councils around Sweden to use mediation in similar cases.

"There is no evidence that this is a method that will succeed. Many times it is a cheap and easy way to get them to move home again," says Astrid Schlytter, senior lecturer in social work at Stockholm University, who is in charge of a project at Gothenburg University that will investigate the methods.