Policing Perspectives on “Honour”-Based Crimes and Forced Marriages within the Context of Domestic Violence

  • Author / Creator
    Aujla, Wendy
  • There is limited research on how police conceptualize “honour”-based crimes and forced marriages; to the best of my knowledge, this qualitative study is the first to examine the perceptions of police officers and civilians working in Canadian law enforcement agencies. This study is based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with 46 research participants: 32 police officers of various ranks and 14 civilian members working in rural and urban settings across Alberta. This dissertation brings together multiple perspectives, which contributes to understanding the need to improve policing practices to prevent, protect, and investigate these crimes.
    The main research question that guided this dissertation is: How do policing agencies in Alberta conceptualize, understand, and respond to “honour”-based crimes within the context of domestic violence? I used constructivist grounded theory approaches to analyze the individual interviews to gain new insights and a deeper understanding of police perspectives and responses to “honour”-based crimes and forced marriages. Critical race feminism is the lens through which I analyzed the data and interpreted the emergent themes. I argue that more direction is required from the government and police service administrations, so individual officers and civilian members are equipped to respond under the existing framework for domestic violence.
    Overall, the key findings presented in each chapter make definitional, methodological, policy, and practical contributions to better understand “honour”-based crimes and forced marriages as specific forms of domestic violence. I outline the methodological approach and research methods I used in chapter 2. The remaining chapters are structured around three substantive papers that have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
    Chapter 3 outlines the construction of a written vignette based on actual cases of girls and women murdered in the name of “honour” as a method of complementing the semi-structured interviews. The methodological considerations I made with the hypothetical vignette are discussed, as well as how the participants reacted to the various forms of abuse, multiple abusers, and the forced marriage depicted in the scenario. This chapter presents my reflections on the development and implementation of the vignette and the rich data that emerged, which indicated that it was a successful method. Finally, I offer recommendations for future training with vignettes and research, as this method is a valuable tool to increase awareness.
    Chapter 4 also examines the vignette and presents the findings from the six accompanying questions. This chapter seeks to understand the meaning-making processes police use in situations like the one described in the vignette. Analysis reveals that both police officers and civilian members recognized the need for intervention in the vignette scenario, except there was uncertainty in how to respond. I examine how not everyone in policing would be able to reliably identify the need for police interventions. Investigations vary depending on the investigator’s level of expertise, knowledge, and experience. Participants’ responses indicate the need to have clear and appropriate guidelines to investigate cases similar to the vignette. I also show how implicit cultural biases can influence a police officer’s actions that stereotype and stigmatize racialized communities. I argue the need to go beyond cultural sensitivity training and diversity hiring practices to educate and train police and other professionals.
    Chapter 5 situates this study within the broader Canadian discourse and political stances informing law and policy decisions where interview questions outside the vignette are discussed. Findings reveal that there is “confusion and uncertainty in policing practices” because of inconsistency in the use of terminology, police perceptions of training, and new legislation passed in 2015 titled Bill S-7, Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. I argue that police are met with challenges and resistance from colleagues within the service, which can affect their actions and protection of victims in vulnerable situations. I offer five recommendations to inform policy and practice.
    This timely study is significant in that it increases the understanding of a complex yet underexplored phenomenon in Canada and contributes to planning for police efforts to protect those at risk. This dissertation focuses specifically on the perceptions of law enforcement, contributes to an emerging body of literature in the Canadian context, and lays the foundation for future research to consider services provided in and beyond policing.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.