Honour-based abuse

So-called ‘honour’ abuse occurs when someone is punished by their family and/or community for behaving in a manner which is believed to have brought shame or dishonour. This type of abuse can be distinguished from other forms of violence because it is often committed with the collusion of family and/or community members.

Honour-based abuse includes acts of harassment, assault, imprisonment, unexplained death (suicide), forced pregnancy/abortion and in some cases murder. The family may perceive that the person has acted inappropriately and dishonoured the family and community - the violence carried out is to punish them for this.

Examples of behaviour that might be deemed ‘inappropriate’ could include:

  • Having a boyfriend
  • Rejecting a forced marriage
  • Refusing to be ‘cut’ (see Female Genital Mutilation)
  • Having sexual relationships before marriage
  • Pregnancy outside of marriage
  • Gossip or rumour (whether true or not)
  • Interfaith relationships
  • Seeking divorce
  • Inappropriate dress or make-up
  • Unacceptable lifestyles or behaviour
  • Defying family, cultural or community expectations

Does it happen over here?

  • It is more common in Britain than commonly believed
  • It can affect both men and women
  • Practices may now be relaxed in the originating country
  • It is a cultural issue, not a religious one
  • It is prompted by so-called shame that has been brought on the family and the consequences can be severe
  • Karma Nirvana, a charity based in the UK supporting victims of honour-based abuse and those at risk, receives more than 800 calls per month

Warning signs

Signs may include:

  • Family history of relatives going missing, self-harm or suicide
  • Relatives making decisions on behalf of the victim
  • Victims may play truant or have extended absences from school due to policing at home
  • Victims may report that they are being kept at home against their will
  • There may be a decline in academic or work performance
  • The victim may report threats to kill which tend to be credible
  • Victims may report they are being emotionally blackmailed
  • Victims may be isolated due to physical, financial or cultural barriers
  • Victims may suffer from depression, self-harm or attempt suicide
  • Psychosomatic symptoms
  • Emotional and/or physical abuse
  • Others insisting on accompanying to appointments
  • Others insisting on interpreting for the victim

How to respond

The victim can often feel powerless, and as the abuse can be carried out by several people within the family and community, it can be harder for professionals to identify and respond to it.

Do not use family or community members as interpreters. With honour-based abuse, family and community members are often involved or will inform the family of the victim’s whereabouts to uphold the honour.

For advice and assistance, contact the Norfolk MASH on 0344 800 8020 or phone 999 in emergencies.

See also safety planning advice.

For more information on Honour Based Violence please visit www.karmanirvana.org.uk/

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