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Honour Based Violence & Forced Marriage

Honour Based Violence

Honour-based violence (HBV) is the term used to refer to a collection of practices used predominantly to control the behaviour of women and girls within families or other social groups in order to protect supposed cultural and religious beliefs, values and social norms in the name of ‘honour’.

For example, HBV may be committed against people who:

  • Become involved with a boyfriend or girlfriend from a different culture, religion or caste;
  • Want to escape an arranged or forced marriage
  • Have adopted Westernised dress or take part in activities, which may not be considered traditional within a particular culture

Women and girls are the most common victims of HBV. However, it can also affect men and boys. Crimes committed in the name of honour may include: assaults, disfigurement, versions of sati (burning), sexual assault and rape, forced marriage, dowry abuse, female genital mutilation, kidnap, false imprisonment, stalking.

In the most extreme cases, people are killed because their actions are thought to be dishonourable. Honour based crime may not involve violence. It can also include:

  • Psychological abuse
  • Written or verbal threats
  • Abusive phone calls, emails and messages

Victims may also be ‘cast out’ by their family and community with very little support. This is high risk to those who have no access to any money or financial support. Culture teaches victims that they will not survive without their family and community and many victims believe this as they have no life experience (and in many cases are not allowed to gain life experience) to prove this notion false.

The people who commit HBV are usually family members or friends within the same community.

HBV is under-reported because those at risk can feel tied by family or community loyalty or are too distressed to speak out.

Due to the complexity of issues surrounding HBV, it is important for professionals to understand the psychology of the perpetrators. Perpetrators of HBV often use honour as an excuse and try to control a victim in any way possible under the guise of cultural standards. Whole communities make this system work by creating a sense of respect for those who are in control. Failing to control their wives or children may therefore actually confer a feeling of shame on the part of the perpetrator – so the feeling of shame may well be real for the perpetrator.

The perpetrator, to ‘save face’ threatens or commits acts of violence in order to control their wives/children in order to prove to the community that they are worthy of respect. Mothers can be guilty of the same behaviour against their children for the same reasons – they are culturally conditioned to believe they have failed as a mother if their child is disobedient. Many perpetrators have convinced themselves that they are only doing their duty as a good parent or member of the community.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Social relationships have narrowed
  • Suspected perpetrator makes all the rules and the victim has no say in his/her own life
  • Extreme restrictions on movement and contact with others
  • Victim shows signs of fear
  • Victim has been injured
  • Victim is withdrawn
  • Victim may excel in school work or employment as symbols of freedom

5 Best Practice Tips for working with victims of HBV:

  • Listen to what the individual is saying about their needs
  • Don’t use family members, community leaders, friends, etc. as interpreters
  • Speak to the person alone. They may be influenced by others to say something they don’t mean
  • Ensure completion of a thorough risk assessment and remember the ‘one chance’ rule. Many potential victims of forced marriage may only have one chance to speak to a professional before it is too late
  • Mediation, reconciliation and family counselling as a response to forced marriage and honour based violence can be extremely dangerous

What to do/places to contact

Under UK law, HBV is a breach of the victim’s human rights and a form of domestic abuse. If you are concerned that a child you know is at risk of HBV:

  • In an emergency contact the Police
  • Or contact MASH on 0845 671 0271 / 02392 688793

There are a range of resources for professionals providing help, support and guidance on forced marriage. The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which provides support and advice to victims, professionals, and those at risk. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to individuals, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals including dual nationals.

The FMU has also developed free forced marriage e-learning for professionals. The modules aim to enable professionals to recognise the warning signs and ensure that appropriate action is taken to help protect and support all those at risk.

Guidance on what to do if you’re trying to stop or leave a forced marriage, please visit the GOV.UK support page.