Examination of Witnesses (Questions 451
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008
Q451 Chairman: Can I call the Committee
to order and ask everyone if they could switch off their mobile
`phones. Can I refer all those present to the Register of Members'
Interests which records the interests of Members of this Committee.
This is the last session of the Committee's inquiry into domestic
violence and forced marriages. We are very pleased to have, for
our final two sessions, representatives of Imkaan. We have got
half-an-hour for these questions. We are going to be brief in
putting our questions and we would be most grateful if you could
respond in a similar way. Can I thank you very much for giving
evidence in this inquiry. You have obviously had the opportunity,
as we have had, to look at the evidence of other individuals and
groups as the inquiry has progressed. Either individually or separately,
could you tell me in what ways are the needs of ethnic minority
women who experience domestic violence different from those who
are not from the ethnic minority communities?
Ms Mouj: I think, essentially,
the biggest thing that we need to focus on at this point is the
experience of racism. What we have found with much of our research
is that the needs are more specific, if you like, rather than
different. The experience of racism dictates the level of support
that they can be offered by mainstream services, and this really
highlights the need for specialist support. Often when we talk
about racism and we talk about the impact of racism upon a community
we talk about the impact on men, and we kind of miss out the impact
that that would have on women, and particularly women that are
going out for support services. One way of looking at this, if
you will allow me to share a quote with you, is in the words of
a young woman. We were in conversation with a young woman in one
of our research forums and what we found was this young woman
was saying to us that she had the experience of, unfortunately,
being evicted from a refuge, and it was a specialist refuge. (I
am going to use the term "black" and when I use the
term "black" or "BME" I would like you to
know that I am referring to Black Asian Minority Ethnic and Refugee
women. I use the term "black" but it is just a term
that I have used for a very long time. What she said was: "Please
don't send me to a white refuge". She was unable to stop
talking about the abuse that she had suffered. What she said was
that when she talked to women from the Asian women's refuge they
really had an understanding and a feeling for her experience and
did not mitigate it or negate it in any way, but when she went
to a mainstream refuge, which she had also been to, she said that
there were really the kind of racist stereotypes around her culture
and around her background. Essentially, she found that unbearable,
and she was a young woman that had been brought up in this country.
Q452 David Davies: I do not want
this to come out the wrong way; what you are saying is that it
is racist to send an Asian woman to a white refuge. That seemed
to be the summary. How would you feel if a white woman said: "I
only want to go to a white refuge; I don't want to be treated
by Asian women; I don't want any Asians in the building; Asians
do not understand my white background"? Would that not actually
be the racist attitude to take, and do you not see that we have
to be consistent in our approach.
Ms Mouj: I am really not saying
that; I am really not saying that to send a black woman, an Asian
woman, an ethnic minority woman or a refugee woman to a white
refuge is racist. I am not saying that at all; I am simply saying
that the experience of racism within those refuges is so well-documented
now, is so evidenced, that, essentially, when we are working with
vulnerable women to flee violent situations one of the things
that we found is that women from the black communities going into
generic refuges leave those refuges and go back into violence
Q453 David Davies: Should white women
have the right to go to a refugee for white people only?
Ms Mouj: I think the point we
need to look at here, and the word that we need to look at, is
"generic". When we use the word "generic refuge"
or "generic provision" we generally tend to make the
assumption that when the term "generic" is used it is
meant to say that it is open to everybody. We would probably say,
in turn, that the term "generic" is something that is
a specialist service for, actually, people who speak English.
So we ask for a specialist service. We are not asking for extra
services; we are actually just asking for the same level of service
Q454 David Davies: Are you actually
saying, though, seriously, to us that a large proportion of those
who work in women's refuges are racist?
Ms Mouj: No, I am not saying that
Q455 Chairman: Can I summarise this
point? What you are saying is that there is a variety of agencies
on offer for women but, on balance, ethnic women prefer to go
to agencies where there are ethnic minority women, for cultural
reasons. I think we get that point.
Ms Mouj: An important point to
also make is that no, I am not just talking about the staff but
I am talking about the fact that also you have residents within
those refuges that will show racism. We have just done some work
Chairman: We understand the point and
we take it. I want to move on, otherwise the whole evidence session
will be dominated by this.
Q456 Patrick Mercer: Could you just
define "white refuge"?
Ms Mouj: It was not my term; it
was your good colleague's term. I would use the term "generic".
Q457 Patrick Mercer: I thought I
heard you saying that the woman had referred to "a white
Ms Mouj: I am sorry. Okay, yes,
you are absolutely right.
Q458 Patrick Mercer: What do you
think she means by that?
Ms Mouj: I think what she meant
was a generic refuge where the residents were from the English-speaking
and white communities.
Q459 Patrick Mercer: Fine. That is
very clear. What additional steps, therefore, are needed to ensure
greater cultural and religious sensitivity amongst mainstream
Ms Mouj: I think, essentially,
what we are saying is that some of the outcomes of the McPherson
report really focus very specifically in terms of promoting good
race relations and looking at services in a very specific way
and ensuring that good race relations exist amongst communities,
with particular reference to organisations of over 150 staff members.
I think some of the elements of the McPherson report articulately
emphasise the need for specialist provision, and monitoring provision.
I would say that would be a good step forward in looking at any
additional steps. I would say that ensuring that specialist services
exist and work alongside the mainstream would ensure that we provided
services that were culturally and religiously sensitive. Essentially,
I think that for refuge accommodation and refuge users we are
really seeing that there is some insensitivity in terms of race,
culture and religion and, therefore, those specialist refugesnot
only do we need to further fund them but we need to sustain what
we have got. What we have seen in recent years is the closure
of specialist refuges, so we definitely need to