Police and elected representatives have been complicit in "community vigilantism" which has contributed to honour killing in the UK, a new report claims today.
According to Crimes of Community: Honourbased Violence in the UK, published by the Centre for Social Cohesion thinktank, the extent of honour-based violence in the Midlands has been widely underestimated by the Government, police and local services.
With the number of incidents on the increase in the region, the report says, many vulnerable women were too scared to approach the police for help.
The findings were based on 80 interviews with women's groups, community activists and victims of honour-based violence in the UK. It examined how and why human rights abuses such as forced marriage, honour killing, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence are carried out in the country.
Evidence of "community vigilantism" was highlighted as it claimed some Asian policemen and councillors had sought to block the activities of women's groups, who they saw as threatening traditional values.
Radical Islamic groups also sought to limit the activities of women's groups, it said. In addition, ethnic and religious segregation was fuelling honour-based violence, particular in the Midlands and northern England.
James Brandon, one of the report's authors and a senior research fellow, said: "These findings show that the Government is still not taking honour crime seriously. Until this happens, the ideas of honour which perpetuate this violence will continue to be passed from generation to generation."
Co-author Salam Hafez, said: "It is appalling that we are still witnessing these human rights abuses in the UK in 2008. These abuses, often aimed at women and the most vulnerable in the community, underline the need for the Government to develop a unified strategy for tackling honour-related crimes."
The report, however, recognised a number of UK community groups, including some in Birmingham, that have taken ground-breaking measures to tackle the problem.
But although it said many victims felt the police were a great help and that their prompt action saved lives, a number of women's groups felt the police's work was often hampered by a lack of awareness and specialised training.
The report also highlighted concerns that a number of women were being forced to return to abusive homes after they were turned away by refuges because of a lack of funding.
Other findings were claims of female genital mutilation being carried out among families from Birmingham and at least one women's rights activist being forced to leave the city to avoid threats and intimidation from members of their community.
In addition it suggested crimes of this nature were now being carried out by third-generation immigrants - born and brought up in the UK.
Previously it had been assumed that honourbased violence was an imported phenomenon which would die out with first generation immigrants, but the survey explained the idea had become more strongly entrenched by the younger generations.
West Midlands Police Authority member Walsall Councillor Zahid Ali (Con Paddock) said he was not aware of evidence to suggest there was an increase in honour violence-related crime in the region.
He said: "West Midlands Police are in a good position to understand all of the issues surrounding all of those cases and I think we are in a much better position than we have ever been before.
"Training in the West Midlands is tremendous for giving support and back-up if a female approaches them with such difficulties.
"I think victims must approach the police - no matter what ever the colour or background of the officer. The initial approach of the police is often the most important one as confidence is either built up or a barrier is created."
He added that he was "absolutely confident" that the police would help any person who approached them for help and that the police were not only there to intervene after a crime had been committed but before as well.