3.8.4 Honour-based Abuse


A summary of this chapter is available – see the Factsheets section in Local Resources.

See also Forced Marriage and 'Honour' Based Violence - Sheffield Protocol.


Forced Marriages Procedure

Domestic Abuse Procedure

Female Genital Mutilation Procedure


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'.


This chapter was updated in March 2022 to reference the governments updated Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy.

1. Introduction

Honour based abuse, where it affects children and young people, is a child protection issue. It is an abuse of human rights. Children and young people who suffer Honour Based Abuse 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.

There is much debate, nationally and locally, about the appropriateness of the term 'honour' based abuse. Obviously, there is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up 'abuse or violence in the name of so-called honour'. The term relates to the offender/s interpretation of the motivation for their actions. Until another term is agreed, this document will use the term "Honour Based Abuse".

2. Definitions

Honour based abuse is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour and exert power within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that an individual has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code. The individual is being punished for actually, or allegedly, undermining what the family or community believes to be the correct code of behaviour.

So-called 'honour based abuse' is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights. There is no honour in the commission of murder, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up abuse or violence in the name of honour.

It may be referred to in some communities as 'Izzat'. It is often committed with some degree of approval and / or collusion from family and / or community members. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and / or community, by breaking their honour code. But whilst Honour Based Abuse often focuses on the violence experienced by victims, other forms of abuse should not be overlooked.

Women are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims of 'so called honour based violence', which is used to assert male power in order to control female autonomy and sexuality. Men and boys can also be victims, sometimes as a result of their sexuality or because they do not wish to comply with the choices their family wants to make for them e.g. in terms of marriage partner.

Honour Based Abuse can take place across national and international boundaries, within extended families and communities and often cuts across cultures, communities and faith groups; including Turkish, Kurdish, Afghani, South Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European. This is not an exhaustive list.

The term is used to describe abuse or violence, which sometimes results in a murder, in the name of so-called honour. This is when - predominantly - women are injured or killed for perceived immoral behaviour, which is deemed to have breached the honour code of a family or community, causing shame.

"Honour-based" violence is a crime or incident which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community."[1] (CPS Legal Guidance).

Honour Based Abuse is also a type of domestic abuse. The government definition of Domestic Abuse which applies to people aged 16 years over states:

"The Government definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group."[2]

Honour Based Abuse may include murder, unexplained death (suicide), fear of or actual forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, threats to kill, assault, harassment, forced abortion, female genital mutilation.

[1] www.cps.gov.uk/publication/honour-based-violence-and-forced-marriage

[2] www.gov.uk/government/publications/definition-of-domestic-violence-and-abuse-guide-for-local-areas

3. What is Honour based Abuse or Killing?

Honour Based Abuse is a cultural, not a religious phenomenon. It impacts in a range of communities. The challenges for services include developing responses that keep people safe and hold perpetrators to account without stereotyping, stigmatising or making assumptions about any given individual or community.

Honour Based Violence, which may include forced marriage and / or female genital mutilation, is perpetrated against children and young people for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Protecting family 'honour' or 'Izzat';
  • To control un-wanted behaviour and sexuality (including perceived promiscuity or being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans gender);
  • As a response to family, community or peer group pressure;
  • Strengthening family links;
  • Protecting perceived cultural and/or religious ideals (misguided or dated);
  • Retaining wealth, property or land within the family;
  • Preventing unsuitable relationships;
  • Assisting claims for residence and citizenship in the UK;
  • Perceived immoral behaviour including:
    • Make-up or dress that is deemed inappropriate;
    • Use of social media;
    • Kissing or showing other forms of intimacy in public;
    • Rejecting a forced marriage;
    • Being a victim of rape or other serious sexual assault;
    • Inter-faith relationships;
    • Seeking a divorce.

Practitioners should never lose sight of the fact that they are interacting with extremely vulnerable children and young people, who may be faced with making life changing decisions in an extremely short space of time.

Many honour based abuse victims, as in mainstream Domestic abuse, just want the abuse to stop. They fear 'criminalising' their parents, families and / or their faith group and fear being isolated from their communities.

A child or young person who is at risk of honour based abuse is at significant risk of physical harm (including being murdered), and / or neglect. They may also suffer significant emotional harm, as a result of a threat of abuse or witnessing violence directed towards a sibling or other family member.

Authorities in some countries may support the practice of honour-based abuse. Therefore the child or young person may be concerned that other agencies share this view, or that they will be returned to their family. They may feel guilty about their rejection of their cultural / family expectations, and also what impact this may have on their family within their community. Furthermore, their immigration status may be dependent on their family, which could also dissuade them from seeking assistance.

Professionals should respond in a similar way to cases of honour based violence, as with Domestic Abuse and forced marriage. This includes facilitating disclosure, developing safety plans for the child or young person and any other family member as necessary, ensuring their safety by according them confidentiality in relation to the rest of the family, and completing individual risk assessments. See Domestic Abuse Procedure and Forced Marriages Procedure.

Boys as well as girls can be subject to Honour Based Violence; gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender young people can be particularly vulnerable.

4. Recognition

Killings that result in the name of 'so-called honour' may be the culmination of a series of events over a period of time and may be planned. There may be a degree of premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die. As well as murder, honour based violence or abuse includes:

  • Domestic abuse;
  • Threats to kill;
  • Denial of access to children;
  • Pressure to go abroad (victims are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences, when in fact the intention could be to kill them);
  • House arrest and / or excessive restrictions of movement / travel and other activities;
  • Denial of access to the telephone, internet, passport and friends.

Children and young people may truant from school to temporarily avoid being policed at home by relatives. As a result they can feel isolated from their family and friends and may become depressed. This can sometimes result in self-harm, or suicide. There have been international cases of suspected 'forced' suicide, where young women may have been forced to take their own lives in order to protect their family's honour (BBC News, 2006). See also Appendix 1: HBV Case Studies.

Families may feel shame long after the incident that brought about dishonour occurred. Therefore the risk of harm to a child or young person can persist for some time. This may mean that a new boy / girlfriend, baby (if pregnancy caused the family to feel 'shame'), associates or siblings may also be likely to suffer Significant Harm.

Children and young people who have been raped may be perceived by relatives as having brought it upon themselves; a family member(s) may inflict violence or kill them as a consequence. Young women who have fled their marriage are often perceived as bringing shame upon their family. As a result they may be at risk, not only from their spouses and in-laws, but also from their own father, brothers, sons and wider community. This is also likely to result in isolation, depression, self-harm, and sometimes suicide.

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. If a child or young person has been, or is at risk of being, taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating them to the United Kingdom (telephone: 020 7008 1500, email: fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk).

4.1 Mental Capacity

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 protects those over the age of 16 who lack capacity. The Act states that any decision or action taken on behalf of someone who lacks capacity must be in the person's best interests. It also states that any action or decision taken on their behalf should limit the person's own freedom and rights as little as possible.

Some young people over the age of 16 will lack the capacity to consent to a marriage. Some may be unable to consent to consummate the marriage - sexual intercourse without consent is rape. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, compelling, inciting or facilitating a person with impaired capacity to engage in sexual activity without consent is also an offence.

If the young person's capacity to consent is in doubt, their capacity to consent to marriage should be assessed.

5. Action for Staff Concerned about a Child or Young Person

5.1 Overview

If you are concerned that a child or young person is at risk of honour based abuse, it is essential that you recognise the seriousness and immediacy of the risk of harm, and act immediately.

It takes a lot of courage for a child or young person to report to an agency that they are afraid that they will be, or have been, subjected to Honour Based Abuse. It is essential, therefore, that actions do not further jeopardise the child or young person's safety. It is vital that the following points are adhered to for the safety of the child or young person:

  • Under no circumstances should the agency 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;
  • Under no circumstances speak to victims in the presence of their relatives;
  • Under no circumstances approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation. In particular, members of the local community should not be used as interpreters;
  • Care must be taken to ensure that any person who has contact with, or information about the child or young person will not jeopardise their safety, either deliberately or inadvertently. This includes a professional (for example social worker, doctor, police officer, or solicitor) taxi drivers, and benefits staff etc. This is not an exhaustive list. Referrals to organisations outside of Sheffield may be required to ensure the child or young person's safety.

Where a child or young person discloses fear of honour based violence in respect of them or a family member, professionals in all agencies should:

5.2 Recording Information

It is vital that you make sure that you make a full record of:

  • What is said, by whom and in their own words;
  • When and at what time;
  • What you have done;
  • What action you have taken;
  • Who you have referred the child / young person to; and
  • What they have said to you about the referral and any subsequent action.

Caution is required about how information is recorded and shielded within the organisation / on internal systems.

5.3 Contacting Children's Social Care or South Yorkshire Police

Any information or concern that a child / young person is at risk of, or has already suffered Honour Based Violence should result in an immediate referral to Children's Social Care and / or South Yorkshire Police Public Protection Unit, Local Contacts. For further information see Making a Referral following the Identification of Child Safety and Welfare Concerns Procedure.

Note: The Home Office definition of domestic abuse applies from 16 years and over.

Workers should contact the relevant Children's Social Care if they have information or concerns about a child or young person who has an allocated social worker, or is awaiting allocation.

In an emergency - do not delay - ring 999.

5.4 Children / Young People in Immediate Danger

Multi-agency planning should consider the need for providing suitable safe accommodation for the child or young person, as appropriate. Local authorities can apply to the courts for various orders, such as an Emergency Protection Order to protect a child or young person at risk of Honour Based Violence. This expires after eight days. In emergency situations consideration should also be given to the use of Police Protection. However these expire after 72 hours, so further provisions would have to be considered after this time.

5.5 Assessment by Children's Social Care

Children's Social Care should incorporate into their Assessment the safety planning, self-assessment and risk assessment processes, as per the guidance contained in Domestic Abuse Procedure and Appendix 2: Safety Planning. If the young person is 16 years or over it will be appropriate to risk assess them using the DASH risk assessment tools and if they are found to be at High Risk of serious harm or homicide, to refer them to MARAC (see Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Procedure).

5.6 Strategy Meeting / Discussion

Once a referral has been received for either a child or young person who is at risk of, or has already suffered, Honour Based Violence a Strategy Discussion / Meeting must be convened within two working days. This should be chaired by a team manager from Children's Social Care. It should involve representatives from the Children's Social Care and the police. Other professionals in education health voluntary / community / specialist community based organisations with specific expertise (for example Honour Based Violence, domestic violence, or sexual abuse where appropriate) should also be involved, but particularly the referring agency. Consideration should also be given to inviting a legal advisor.

Workers should inform their line manager if they have any personal connection with the child or young person, or a member of their family, including extended family. The line manager should inform the Strategy Meeting / Discussion as appropriate.

5.7 Section 47 Enquiries

Honour Based Violence places a child / young person at risk of Significant Harm and will therefore be initially investigated under Section 47 Enquiries. If a Strategy Discussion decides that there will be a joint investigation, then this will be carried out by the Joint Investigation Team, which consists of social workers and police officers.

An interpreter must be used in if the preferred language of the child / young person is not English. Care must be taken when identifying an appropriate interpreter, to ensure that the safety of the child or young person is not further jeopardised, as outlined in Section 5.1, Overview.

5.8 Multi-Agency Meetings

All multi-agency discussions should recognise the police responsibility to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation as appropriate.

In cases where the child or young person is likely to suffer, or has suffered Significant Harm a referral should be made using Making a Referral following the Identification of Child Safety and Welfare Concerns Procedure.

Children and young people who 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.

The Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is part of a coordinated community response to domestic abuse, incorporating representatives from statutory, community and voluntary agencies working with victims/survivors, children and the alleged perpetrator. For more information see Section 6, Recognising and Assessing the Impact of Domestic Abuse on Children and Young People of the Domestic Abuse Procedure and MARAC Procedure. If the young person is 16 years or over it will be appropriate to risk assess them using the DASH risk assessment and if they are found to be at High Risk of serious harm or homicide, to refer them to MARAC (see Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Procedure).

5.9 DASH

If the young person is 16 years or over it will be appropriate to risk assess them using the DASH risk assessment and if they are found to be at High Risk of serious harm or homicide, to refer them to MARAC (see Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Procedure).

Appendix 1: HBV Case Studies

The following are examples of the types of situations about which a specialist agency may be contacted.

A 17 year old young woman met a young man via Facebook. They conversed regularly and then met a few times. He got her to buy various things for him. She thought it was a legitimate relationship with a potential future. The young man then suggested that they met in a hotel. There he took pictures of her with his phone camera, in compromising positions. A few weeks later he contacted her to say that if she did not continue to give him money he would publish the pictures across the region. It materialised that throughout the 'relationship' he got her to spend money on him, including the hotel booking. It also became apparent that he was not acting alone, and that others were also involved. Her mother became aware of the situation and was supportive, realising that her daughter has been targeted and exploited. However, neither the young woman nor her mother wanted her father to find out as they were concerned what the consequences could be. He had very strong feelings about the family izzat (honour) and they were very worried that he would take action against his daughter and wife.

A 15 year old young woman said her parents were not happy with her friends. After giving her several warnings, her family begun to monitor her movements and started to lock her in her bedroom. Her parents and older brother started to threaten her.

National learning: Banaz Mahmood

The murder of Banaz Mahmood highlighted the lack of knowledge surrounding such issues within the police and was the catalyst for change. Banaz lived in London and was 20 years old when she was murdered in 2006. She had been subject of an arranged marriage to a violent husband and she began an affair with a family friend. Her family, particularly her father strongly disapproved of this as it brought dishonour to the family. She was imprisoned and beaten for the dishonour she brought to the family and then allowed to return home. She continued the affair and her father and uncle decided she should die and ordered her murder. She was found three months later murdered and buried in a suitcase in a garden in Birmingham.

From the outset Banaz had been in contact with the police and told them she was receiving threats from her family, was being beaten and feared she would be killed. The police took little in the way of action. However, since that time the police have made considerable progress in improving the response to victims of HBA, and have indeed driven forward the multi-agency agenda in relation to this issue.

Implications and Action

The National Police Chief's Council Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Strategy was produced in 2008. SYP works towards the strategic and policy recommendations. SYP HQ Public Protection Unit takes the lead in this area, working with other SYP units.