South Asian Heritage Month

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From 18th July to 17th August, Hourglass is supporting South Asian Heritage Month.

Launched in 2019 in the House of Commons, South Asian Heritage Month is a celebration of South Asian history and culture, marking the diverse heritage that connects the UK and South Asia.

Census data collected in 2021 revealed that 3.8% of people over 65 identified in the Asian ethnic group, making them the largest ethnic minority population in the UK.

When it comes to supporting older people from South Asian communities, specialist support services need to recognise the specific cultural and social needs that this intersection of age and ethnic background brings.

While there is little research completed on the abuse of older people within South Asian communities, there remains a number of cultural factors which can act as a barrier to older victim-survivors receiving the support they need.

Professor Anita Raj found that:

‘South Asian migrants may be less aware of domestic violence services, as these may not be available or very accessible in countries of origin.’

‘There may be no linguistically or culturally tailored services (such as shelters – is the food halal, are there prayer spaces?) that offer these, or existing services may not be effectively outreaching to these communities.’

In addition, fears of being socially ostracised may prevent older South Asian victim-survivors from reaching out to specialist support services. In many cases, due to tradition, older South Asian people remain in extended multi-generational family units and may fear being isolated if they speak up about abuse.

Often, abuse within these communities manifests as ‘honour based abuse’, defined as ‘a crime or incident which has, or may have been, committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community’. It can involve coercive control, physical abuse, financial abuse and in some cases can result in the death of a victim-survivor.

While these factors are often a barrier to victims finding help, there are a number of organisations in the UK that specialise in supporting victim-survivors from South Asian communities, such as:

  • Karma Nirvana: specialises in honour based abuse
  • Muslim Women’s Network UK: a national specialist faith service that offers in-depth guidance on domestic abuse.
  • Roshni: specialises in all forms of domestic and honour based abuse, offers a 24 hour multi-lingual helpline
  • Asian Women’s Resource Centre: offer a range of services including legal advice, secure housing and counselling.

Here’s how we can support older victim-survivors from South Asian communities:

Be informed: It’s essential that we remain informed about the specific factors that the intersection of age and culture can bring and listen to the experiences of older victim-survivors from the South Asian communities.

Be inclusive: Support services must be inclusive and welcoming to older victim-survivors from South Asian communities, understanding that there may be additional barriers to reaching out for support.

Be aware: Simply being aware and recognising that the experiences of older victim-survivors from South Asian communities can manifest differently to those of white backgrounds is a step in the right direction.

Be understanding: Reaching out for help is a big step for any older victim-survivor and it is important to be understanding of how daunting it can be, especially considering cultural contexts and fear of ostracisation.

At Hourglass, we support older victim-survivors from all ethnic backgrounds and communities through our 24/7 helpline, instant messaging, texting and community response services. Our specialist knowledge and understanding of the unique ways that abuse presents in later-life informs our approach to supporting older victim-survivors and their loved ones.

If you need help, or are concerned about an older person who may be experiencing abuse, you can contact our free, 24/7 helpline on 0808 808 8141 or click here for further services.