The Government's updated Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy sets out the government's strategy including planned legislative provisions to tackle issues such as child marriage and 'virginity testing'.
In July 2023, a link to the Home Office Forced Marriage Resource Pack was added to Section 6, Additional Information and Resources.
- Protection and Action to be Taken
- Information Sharing
- Additional Information and Resources
Honour based abuse (HBA) can be described as a collection of practices which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such abuse occurs when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code.
It is a violation of human rights and may be a form of domestic and/or sexual abuse. There is no, and cannot be, honour or justification for abusing the human rights of others. For young victims it is a form of child abuse.
The term 'honour based abuse and violence' relates to the offender/s interpretation of the motivation for their actions.
Honour based abuse and violence cuts across all cultures and communities. It affects people of all ages, but often begins early in the family home. Girls and women are particularly at risk of honour based abuse, however boys and men are also affected and may be at heightened risk if there are factors around disability, sexuality and mental health.
It can be distinguished from other forms of abuse and violence, as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and/or community members. Women, men and younger members of the family can all be involved in the abuse. Victims of honour-based abuse are more likely to be abused multiple times by multiple perpetrators.
There are no specific legislation or offences which cover honour based abuse or violence, although forcing someone to marry is an offence and a civil remedy is available through a Forced Marriage Protection Order; see Forced Marriage Procedure. Cases of honour based violence or abuse will be prosecuted under the specific offence committed e.g. common assault, inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm, stalking and harassment, kidnap, rape, threats to kill and murder.
Honour based violence, where it affects children and young people, is a child protection issue. Children and young people who are subject to honour based abuse and violence are at risk of significant harm through physical, sexual, psychological, emotional harm and neglect. In some cases they are also at risk of being killed.
Children and young people may find themselves in an abusive and dangerous situation against their will with no power to seek help. The usual avenues for seeking help – through parents or other family members may be unavailable.
Honour based abuse and violence manifests itself in a diverse range of ways with children and young people, it can lead to a deeply embedded form of coercive control, built on expectations about behaviour that are made clear at a young age. Often the control is established without obvious violence for instance through family members threatening to kill themselves because of the victim's behaviour. Honour based abuse can also include forced marriage (approximately 1 in 5 cases), domestic and/or sexual violence, rape, physical assaults, harassment, kidnap, threats of violence (including murder), witnessing violence directed towards a sibling or indeed another family member, and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female Genital Mutilation is an offence under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. It is also a criminal offence to force someone to marry (Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014). See also Forced Marriage Procedure and Safeguarding Children at Risk of Abuse through Female Genital Mutilation Procedure.
Online targeting of victims is being used more frequently as a means of controlling and exploiting them.
Victims can find it difficult to disclose, leave abusive relationships or ask for help if their immigration status is uncertain. They may face a number of issues such as a fear of deportation, bringing 'shame' on their families, financial difficulties and homelessness, or losing their family and or children.
The notion of shame and the associated risk to the victim may persist long after the incident that brought about dishonour occurred. This means any new partner of the victim, children, associates or their siblings may be at serious risk of significant harm.
Behaviours that could be seen to transgress concepts of honour include:
- Inappropriate attitude, behaviour, make-up or dress;
- The existence of a boyfriend/girlfriend or a perceived unsuitable relationship e.g. a gay/lesbian relationship;
- Rejecting an arranged or resisting a forced marriage;
- Pregnancy outside of marriage;
- Being a victim of rape;
- Inter-faith relationships (or same faith, but different ethnicity);
- Leaving a spouse or seeking divorce;
- Kissing or intimacy in a public place;
- Alcohol and drugs use.
It is important not only to look for signs of violence, but also patterns of constrained behaviour which may indicate someone is fearful of harm or altering their behaviour because of abusive behaviour by others.
It is likely that awareness that a child is the victim of an honour based crime will only come to light after an assault of some kind has taken place e.g. an allegation of domestic abuse or when a child is reported as missing. There are inherent risks to the act of disclosure for the victim and possibly limited opportunities to ask for help for fear of retribution from their family or community.
There may be evidence of domestic abuse, including controlling, coercive and dominating behaviour towards the child or young person and or adult victim. Family disputes, and unreasonable restrictions on the young person such as removal from education or virtual imprisonment within the home may occur. Children sometimes truant from school to obtain relief from being policed at home by relatives. They can feel isolated from their family and social networks and become depressed, which can on some occasions lead to self-harm or suicide.
Young people may be fearful of being forced into engagement/marriage. Other warning signs may include risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) and/or sexual abuse. (See Safeguarding Children at Risk through Female Genital Mutilation Procedure and Forced Marriage Procedure). Victims of honour based violence are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences, when in fact the intention could be to kill them.
Some families go to considerable lengths to find their children who run away, and young people who leave home are at risk of significant harm if they are returned to their family. They may be reported as missing by their families, but no mention is made of the reason. It is vital that practitioners explore the underlying reasons before any decisions are made.It is extremely important that concerns about honour based violence are taken seriously. Murders in the name of 'so-called honour' are often the culmination of a series of events over a period of time and are planned. There tends to be a degree of premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die.
4. Protection and Action to be Taken
It takes a lot of courage for a child or young person to report to an agency that they, or a family member have been, subjected to honour based abuse or violence, or to say that they are afraid that they will be.
The 'One Chance Rule'
All practitioners working with victims of honour based violence need to be aware of the 'one chance' rule. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and thus they may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all practitioners working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they come across these cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted.
It is essential that actions do not further jeopardise the child or young person's safety. It is vital that the following points are adhered to by all agencies and practitioners for the safety of the child or young person:
- Any suspicion or disclosure of violence or abuse against a child in the name of honour should be treated equally seriously as any other suspicion or disclosure or significant harm against a child;
- Do not under estimate the potential risk of harm;
- Involving families in cases of honour based abuse or violence, including forced marriage, is dangerous. Under no circumstances should any practitioner:
- Allow the child's family or social network to find out about the disclosure, so as not to put the child at further risk of harm;
- Speak to victims in the presence of their relatives;
- Approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation. In particular, where an interpreter is required, an accredited female interpreter is required.
Anyone who has concerns that a child is at risk of honour based abuse/ violence, or is living in a household where it is being perpetrated, should consult with their agency designated/named professional for safeguarding and child protection. See Derby City and Derbyshire Thresholds Document (Documents Library, Guidance Documents).
Wherever there are concerns about honour based abuse or violence an immediate referral to Children's Social Care and or the Police should be made. See Making a Referral to Social Care Procedure.
If the child is at immediate risk of harm the practitioner must contact the Police on 999.
In all cases where honour based abuse or violence is reported or suspected the immediate, imminent and longer term risks must be considered. Immediate action to protect the child and/ or other family members may be required.
Where there are concerns that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, Children's Social Care will convene a Strategy Discussion / Meeting involving Police, Health and other agencies as appropriate (for example the referring agency, child's school, legal services and specialist agencies). See Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy Discussion / Meetings.
The Strategy Discussion / Meeting will consider relevant matters including:
- Agreeing what further information is required about the child and family and how it should be obtained and recorded;
- Agreeing who should be interviewed, by whom, for what purpose, and when;
- Co-ordinating any criminal investigation as appropriate;
- Agreeing, in particular, how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions;
- Plan any intervention, including any medical examinations, with consideration of the cultural factors such as the significance it has in terms of cultural identity;
- The need for immediate protection and placement away from the family/extended family/community;
- Consider taking legal advice as to the options for protection available;
- Consider the need for enquiries to be made about the risks to other children in the family i.e. siblings, cousins or the community;
- Establish whether an accredited interpreter will be required, to be used in all interviews with the family.
Where there are also concerns about forced marriage and/or female genital mutilation (FGM) see Forced Marriage Procedure or Safeguarding Children at Risk of Abuse through FGM procedures (see Safeguarding Children at Risk of Abuse Through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Procedure), as appropriate.
If the young person is 16 years or over it will be appropriate to risk assess them using the DASH Risk Identification Checklist(also known by the Police as a Public Protection Notice) and, if they are found to be at high risk of serious harm or homicide, to refer them to the Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). See Documents Library, Assessment Tools for the DASH Risk Identification Checklist.
If a child or young person has been, or is at risk of being, taken abroad, legal advice should be sought to consider the options to protect the child. Children's Social Care should liaise closely with the Forced Marriage Unit and/or the Community Liaison Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as appropriate.
Addressing the needs of the individual is key, as victims of honour based abuse or violence will require a tailored response dependent on a number of factors including, for example, levels of risk, language and cultural barriers, how long they have been in the country, their social and family networks and their economic circumstances.
Continual assessment and review is paramount as circumstances can change very quickly, for example, following disclosure to the Police the risks to the victim and others who are supporting the victim may increase.
Young people may face significant harm if their families/communities realise that they have asked for help. All aspects of their safety need to be carefully assessed at every stage. Initially this assessment will need to address whether it is safe for them to return home following a disclosure. The young person will need practical help such as accommodation and financial support, as well as emotional support and information about their rights and choices.
As honour based abuse and violence is often perpetrated by family members that might typically be seen to act protectively, such as fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, any safety plans must take account of this and be sufficiently robust to ensure the child is safe.
Children and young people who stay or return to their families should be offered support including escape plans, the option to deposit their DNA, passport number, finger prints and photograph with the Police.
Adults affected by honour based abuse or violence should be reviewed under the safeguarding adults at risk process but any adult assessment must address any potential risk of honour based abuse or violence to any other women or female children living in the family as well as the extended family network.
For details of safeguarding adults processes please see:
5. Information Sharing
See also Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Information Sharing Agreement and Guidance for Practitioners (see Documents Library, Guidance Documents).
Social Workers and all other practitioners need to be aware that children at risk or subject to honour based abuse or violence may face significant harm if their families become aware that they have sought assistance from either statutory agencies such as Children's Social Care and Police, or from voluntary/community-based organisations.
Caution should be taken by all practitioners to ensure that they clearly establish that information is shared only with the appropriate person and they should seek advice if necessary. Families may go to great lengths to find information about the whereabouts of children from practitioners and practitioners and get them to collude with such requests.
6. Additional Information and Resources
Safelives DASH Risk Identification Checklist (in Documents Library, Assessment Tools)
Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) webpage - The FMU webpage on the government website contains a whole host of additional information, guidance and resources:
- Recognise a forced marriage;
- How the Forced Marriage Unit can help;
- Contact details for the FMU;
- Understand the legislation on forced marriage;
- Access guidance and training;
- Statistics on forced marriage;
- ‘Right to Choose’ campaign;
- Animated documentaries.
Forced marriage resource pack -
This resource pack has been designed to highlight examples of best practice and to help ensure that effective support is available to victims of forced marriage.
- Case studies of people who have experienced forced marriage;
- Resources produced by both statutory and non-statutory organisations; and
- Links to support organisations and helplines which can help people who may be at risk of forced marriage.
Karma Nivarna and UK Helpline 0800 5999 247 supporting victims of honour based abuse and forced marriage
Freedom Charity and Freedom Charity Mobile App - help, assistance and instructions for children, friends of children and professionals about children and young people who are at risk of, or are subjected to violent crimes such as Female Genital Mutilation, so called 'honour-based' violence and forced marriages in the UK.