In this article
Honour-based violence is a “collection of practices that are used to control the behaviour within families in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour.” (www.bedfordshire.police.uk)
Violence can take place when perpetrators perceive that a relative has brought shame to their family and/or to their community by breaking their ‘honour code’ which is closely related to their religion.
Women are most often the victims of honour-based violence but this is not always the case. However, what marks honour-based violence is that it is usually committed with some kind of approval or collusion from family and/or community members.
Males can be caught up in honour-based violence if they are believed to be supporting the victim and sometimes because of their involvement in what are perceived to be inappropriate relationships such as being in a homosexual relationship.
What is honour-based violence?
The kinds of offences that make up honour-based violence are listed below and will be explained at greater lengths throughout this blog.
Types of honour-based violence –
- Common assault.
- Domestic abuse.
- Forced marriage.
- Neglect and abandonment.
- Failure to secure regular attendance at school.
- Theft (for example of a passport or other form of identity).
- Child abduction.
- Abduction of an unmarried girls under the age of 16 from a parent or guardian.
- Abduction of a woman by force or for the sake of her property.
- Forced repatriation.
- Aiding and abetting a criminal offence.
- False imprisonment.
A child or adult who is at risk of honour based violence is not only at risk of the threat of physical harm but also of emotional harm as well as they may witness violence directed towards a brother, sister or other family member.
What behaviours might be considered to be in breach of the honour of a family and/or community?
In families and communities where religious beliefs are very strong, the behaviours that are considered to be inappropriate and which may then provoke honour-based violence are varied and may change depending on the nature of the community or culture involved.
In cases of extreme violence, the following behaviours are thought to be those, which could be serious enough to result in murder –
- Inappropriate make-up.
- Wearing inappropriate clothing such as a dress.
- Having a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Intimacy in a public place.
- Refusing to be involved in a forced marriage.
- Pregnancy outside of marriage.
- Being the victim of rape.
- Having a relationship with someone of a different religion.
- Leaving a husband or wife or seeking a divorce. (www.londoncp.co.uk)
Who is at risk of honour based violence?
Statistics indicate that incidents of honour based violence are not specific to one culture or community and that those who are involved will come from a variety of different places. For example, in the UK, cases of honour based violence have involved people from the following areas –
- The Middle East.
- South and East Europe. (Please note that this list is not exhaustive.)
What does ‘honour’ mean in this context?
In general terms, the word ‘honour’ means that something or someone is held in high esteem and that they are likely to be regarded with great respect. It also refers to the action of fulfilling an obligation or agreement.
Honour-based violence therefore, is related to all of these concepts; families and communities from certain cultures and religions hold their beliefs in high esteem and gain great pride from the fact that they give respect to others from the same religion and that they themselves are the source of respect. The breaking of an obligation to remain committed to certain cultural or religious beliefs is the source of honour-based violence. Families and communities may see such a breach is disrespectful and insulting and some individuals will go to great lengths to ensure that those who are responsible for not honouring cultural and religious beliefs are subject to a punishment, which is what honour-based violence is directly related to.
|Types of honour-based violence|
|The type||What this form of violence entails|
|Physical and emotional abuse||This is a form of abuse where an individual is subject to physical or emotional harm such as through assault or through threats of violence.|
|Domestic abuse||Domestic abuse takes place within a relationship and involves behaviour that is classed as controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading or violent.|
|Forced marriage||A marriage that takes place without the consent of one or both parties.|
|Neglect and abandonment||Leaving an individual in a place or returning them to a place where they have no support from others and will be alone and left to fend for themselves.|
|Failure to secure regular attendance at school||This applies to children who are still of school age and who do not attend school with reasonable excuse for their absence. The parent will be guilty of this offence as the child themselves is not responsible.|
|Theft (for example of a passport or other form of identity)||Theft involves the taking of one or more items from an individual without their consent. Taking a passport or other form of identity can mean that an individual cannot flee a country and is effectively trapped where they are.|
|Child abduction||Child abduction involves the wrongful removal, wrongful retention, detainment or concealing a child. The child is usually taken away by persuasion, fraud or by open force or violence.|
|Abduction of an unmarried girl under the age of 16 from a parent or guardian||Similar to child abduction, this involves the forced removal of a child from the possession of his or her parents against their will, often for the purpose of sexual acts or forced marriage. This offence is included in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.|
|Abduction of a woman by force or for the sake of her property||This applies to a woman who is taken and detained against her will with the intention that she shall marry or have sexual relations with another person. She is taken or detained either by force or for the sake of her property or the expectations of property.This offence is included in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.|
|Forced repatriation||This action involves the return of an individual to their country of origin under circumstances that give them no other viable option.|
|Rape||Rape is an act of unlawful sexual intercourse or other form of sexual penetration, with or without force and without the consent of the victim.|
|Aiding and abetting a criminal offence||This involves one or more individuals helping another individual to commit a crime. It is sometimes also known as being an accessory to a crime.|
|Kidnapping||To kidnap someone is to hold them captive, often in order to obtain a ransom. Kidnap usually takes place by unlawful force and is always without the consent of the victim.|
|False imprisonment||When someone is falsely imprisoned, they have their movements intentionally restricted and against their will. This may also involve holding a person in a confined space where they may be subject to physical restraint.|
|Murder||Murder is the unlawful and premeditated killing of one person by another.|
Types of abuse
When someone is the victim of honour-based violence, they are likely to be subject to different kinds of abuse, as this is a form of ‘punishment’ that is difficult to prove as victims will be reluctant to admit to what is happening or has happened to them so as to avoid further abuse. It is important to recognise the difference between types of abuse so that these can be recognised by those who seek to give support to individuals who are vulnerable to honour-based violence.
Furthermore, abuse may be something that escalates over a period of time and may eventually worsen to a point where the individual is murdered and so it is important that it is identified before an individual’s life is put at risk.
The table below outlines some of the kinds of abuse, which may become a form of honour-based violence.
|Type of abuse||Description|
|Physical||Contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.
Examples include – hitting, slapping, pushing, biting and restraining.
|Emotional||Threats or actions to cause mental or
physical harm, humiliation or isolation.Emotional abuse can include – threatening a child or trying to coerce them through harassment, verbal abuse or isolation.
|Sexual||The forcing of undesired sexual behaviour by one person upon another.
This can be direct abuse of the other person such as rape or sexual touching or by making someone watch images of a sexual nature.Sexual abuse comes about when sexual acts have not been consented to.
|Domestic||The abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship using repeated, random and habitual measures to intimidate or control a partner. Children who are witness to this behaviour can be significantly affected by what they see and hear.
Domestic abuse also involves ‘honour-based’ violence where children are targeted because they have brought shame to a family or they have violated cultural or religious rules.
|Modern slavery||This type of abuse encompasses slavery, human trafficking and forced labour. The individuals who perpetrate this form of abuse will use whatever they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life they have not agreed to, which is likely to be inhumane and abusive.
Slavery and trafficking can apply to children equally as much as adults.
|Female genital mutilation (FGM)||FGM is the partial or total removal of female genitalia, through cutting, injuring or changing when there is no medical reason to do so.
It is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before the onset of puberty. It is illegal in the UK.
|Type of abuse||Signs and behaviours, which may indicate abuse|
-Fractures and dislocations.
-Scratches and cuts.
-Loss of clumps of hair.
-Black eyes or bruised ears.
-Scalds or burns.
-A history of unexplained minor falls or accidental poisonings.
-Explanations which are not consistent with injuries.
-Deterioration of health with no obvious cause.
-Withdrawal and mood changes.
-Reluctance for the individual to be with specific people.
-Others not allowing access to the child or adult.
|Emotional||-Reluctance for the individual to be with specific people.
-Continual references to the individual in a derogatory way by others.
-Being overly affectionate to strangers.
-Lack of confidence.
-Aggression towards others.
-Individual not allowed to speak their opinion.
-Disturbed sleep patterns.
|Sexual||-Bruises around the genital area.
-Bite marks or scratches.
-Recurrent sexually transmitted infections.
-Blood in underwear.
-Abdominal pain that has no apparent cause.
-Provocative and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
-Aggression towards others.
-Refusal to undress in front of others.
-Reluctance for the individual to be with specific people.
-Sexual abuse of others.
|Domestic||-Suddenly becoming aggressive without an obvious cause.
-Displays of anti-social behaviour.
– Withdrawal with signs of depression.
– Not doing well at school for no apparent reason.
– Sleep problems.
– Minor medical complaints with no obvious source.
– Increased separation anxiety.
– Easily distracted.
|Modern Slavery||– Signs of physical or emotional abuse
– Rarely allowed to travel alone
– Appearing to be under the control of someone else
– Few or no personal belongings
– Hesitation when speaking with strangers.
|Female genital mutilation (FGM)||-Difficulties with urination.
– Constant pain.
– Frequent vaginal, pelvic or urinary infections.
– Menstrual problems.
– Kidney damage.
– Cysts and abscesses.
– Discomfort when sitting or standing.
– Appearing anxious or depressed.
– Reluctance to undress or undergo medical examinations.
– Unusual absences from school or college.
Why honour based violence may not be reported by the individual
It is thought that cases of honour-based violence are likely to be much higher than statistics suggest because only cases where an allegation has been made are counted in official numbers and many cases go unreported.
Those who are subject to honour-based violence may be reluctant to speak up for several reasons –
- They do not want the violence to worsen – Some victims of honour-based violence may be threatened with their life if they speak up about it. They may be persuaded to genuinely believe that they will be killed if a report is made and this threat may be extended to other members of their family.
- They don’t want to put other family members at risk – The perpetrator may threaten the victim that another member of their family will be assaulted if they speak up. The perpetrator may threaten a particularly vulnerable member of the family such as a younger brother or sister.
- They have been persuaded that they deserve to be assaulted – Sometimes the control that people are under from their abusers is so string, it means that they don’t report violence because they believe that they deserve it and that no one will believe them if they speak up. The self-esteem of the victim may be so low that they don’t believe anyone will want to help them and so they see no point of making a report.
- They do not want to be forced into marriage – As well as being threatened with violence, individuals may be told that if they bring further shame onto a community or family by reporting violence that they will be forced into marriage and that this may be in another country, forcing them to leave their family and be abandoned and neglected in an unfamiliar place.
Why honour-based violence may not be reported by other people
Some cases of abuse will go undetected because other people who are not directly involved in it but who have suspicions about it never make a report. This can be for many different reasons, which may include –
- They don’t want to be wrong – Sometimes people are scared to report potential abuse because they think that they will be blamed if the report finds no evidence of abuse.
- They are scared of repercussions – If the person who would make the report knows the family of the victim, they may be scared that the family will find out who has reported them. They may be afraid that they too will become a victim of violence.
- They may be cast out by their community – In communities where families are very close, reporting one family may bring shame onto another, particularly if this results in a conviction for one or more members of the accused family.
- They are afraid they will have to give their names – Members of the public can choose to remain anonymous when they are reporting potential abuse but not everyone who might make a report is aware of this.
- The abuse is historical – Some people may think that there is no point in reporting abuse that has already taken place because nothing can be done about it.
Case Studies – quotes
The following quotes are taken from real victims of honour-based violence and/or forced marriage who have been able to seek out support:
“I don’t want a lot; I just want to be free. I want to wear jeans if I want to wear jeans, play football if I want to play football, if I don’t want to wear a scarf don’t wear a scarf. Simple things, I don’t want a lot. But when you have these things taken out from you, you feel like wow, like there is something wrong.” Ada, survivor
“Our upbringing meant we were incredibly vulnerable and conditioned to believe that, as women, we were meant to behave in a certain way and out choices were not our own. Jasvinder Sanghera” CBE, Karma Nivana
“While my husband’s family went to work and school I was expected to make the lunch, the evening meal, to clean and dust the house, making sure everything was prepared by the time they got back. With 8 people living in the house, that’s all it was day in and day out, picking up and taking away. My husband’s family has all of the control, whatever I did was on their terms.
They manipulated my husband and my children. I began to see the change in my husband. There was soon no financial support and the first time there was physical abuse, it came from my husband.” Amala, Survivor (http://safelives.org.uk/)
How do forced marriage and honour-based violence link together?
Honour-based violence is not always a pre-cursor to forced marriage, the two are often closely linked. It is important that you undergo training for both honour-based violence and forced marriage.
Forced marriage is in itself a form of honour-based violence; it may be forced upon someone who has been seen to dishonour or disrespect the beliefs of a family or community such as by behaving in ways that are seen as unacceptable, for example acting in a promiscuous way, dressing ‘inappropriately’ or being involved in a homosexual relationship.
Furthermore, honour-based violence may be subjected upon someone who is refusing to take part in a forced marriage; prior to the marriage therefore the individual may be subject to different kinds of violence, threats and other forms of coercion. Unfortunately, this can also mean that once the marriage has taken place that the abuse still continues in the form of domestic abuse.