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Victims and Witnesses of Crime

Honour Based Violence (HBV)


So-called '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.


'Honour based violence’ is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights. There is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up ‘violence in the name of so-called honour’. The simplicity of the above definition is not intended in any way to minimise the levels of violence, harm and hurt caused by the perpetration of such acts.


It is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and / or community by breaking their honour code. 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.


So-called 'honour based violence’ can be distinguished from other forms of violence, as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and / or community members. Examples may include murder, un-explained death (suicide), fear of or actual forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, threats to kill, assault, harassment, forced abortion. This list is not exhaustive.


So-called 'honour based violence’ cuts across all cultures, nationalities.


Some of the practices associated with HBV are described below:




‘Murders in the name of so-called honour’ are murders where victims are killed for their perceived immoral behaviour, which is deemed to have breached the honour code of a family or community, causing shame. They are sometimes called ‘honour killings’. There is, however, no honour in murder.


(ACPO 2006)


Domestic Violence and Abuse


Domestic abuse and violence against women cuts across all communities, cultures and religious belief systems. In fact, much of HBV is rooted within domestic abuse.


Even within the UK domestic abuse was not previously seen as unacceptable and only in recent times has the depth of the crime been highlighted. For example, in England marital rape was not even considered a crime until 1991.


For members of communities that have emigrated into the UK, domestic abuse may have been socially accepted or even permitted under the law of their country of origin. They may also believe that their religious belief system permits such acts.




Forced Repatriation


HBV cases can involve the abduction of victims and children from the UK. This can be undertaken for an array of reasons - most notably Forced Marriage.


Acid Attacks


“In an acid attack, a man throws acid (the kind found in car batteries) on the face of a girl or woman. Any number of reasons can lead to acid attacks. A delayed meal or the rejection of a marriage proposal is offered as justification for a man to disfigure a woman with acid. Sulphuric acid is ubiquitous, being the basic, inexpensive ingredient for making lead acid batteries in all motorised vehicles all over the world.”


(UNICEF 2005)


Blood Feuds


“The custom of blood feuds derives from age-old tribal laws that proclaim that blood must be avenged with blood. These feuds are particularly prevalent in the Balkans, Caucasus region and South Asia.


What lies at the heart of blood feuds is not punishment, but satisfaction that the honour and the reputation of the individual or family has been restored.”


(Gendercide 2004)


Forced Marriage


This is described as a marriage without the full and free consent of both parties where duress is a factor. It cannot be accepted under any cultural or religious grounds and is a fundamental breach of Human Rights. Forced Marriages should not be confused with the tradition of Arranged Marriages. In Arranged Marriages the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether to accept the arrangement remains with the individual.


(Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2005)






Honour based violence and the emotional and the physical abuse associated with it can play an important role in the circumstances of suicide.




Self-harm is the deliberate injury to one's own body. The injury may be aimed at relieving otherwise unbearable emotions, sensations of unreality or numbness . It can be associated with mental illnesses, pressure, trauma, abuse and with characteristics such as perfectionism. Although self- harm may be seen by some as attention seeking behaviour, many conceal their actions from others.




In the United Kingdom common law rape has traditionally been described as a man who forces a woman to have sexual intercourse with him.


Previously it was believed that forced sex by a husband against his wife (marital rape) was not rape, or even a crime until 1991. Both partners were deemed to have given implicit informed consent in advance to a lifelong sexual relationship as part of their marriage.


Modern criminal law eliminates this exception and includes acts of sexual violence other than vaginal intercourse, such as forced anal intercourse, which were traditionally barred under sodomy laws.


Female Genital Mutilation


“Female genital mutilation is the term used to refer to the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia. The procedure consists of a clitoridectomy (where all, or part of, the clitoris is removed), excision and cutting of the ‘labia majora’ to create raw surfaces, which are then stitched or held together in order to form a cover over the vagina when they heal. A small hole is left to allow urine and menstrual blood to escape.”


(Amnesty 2005)


We understand how difficult the position is for those faced with Honour Based Violence and we also recognise the enormous cultural issues that can make reporting this type of very personal crime to the Police or any third party extremely difficult.


In recognition of this the Constabulary has a number of officers who specialise in investigating and supporting victims of this type of crime.


We recognise that to do so we need to gain your confidence and trust which we aim to do by investigating the matter sensitively and cautiously whilst maintaining your confidentiality.


The specialist investigators, based within our Harm Reduction Unit will provide you with a personal, empathetic and confidential service which respects and understands the type of cultural issues that sit behind this type of crime.




Officers in our Harm Reduction Unit are specially trained to deal with victims of these serious and very personal crimes.  You can be confident that if you call, you will be treated with respect and in confidence.  If you would like to speak to an officer in the Harm Reduction Unit, please telephone Telephone 101 and request to speak to a member of the team.  In an emergency, dial Telephone 999.




You may find these documents below of use:


Download Adobe PDF Document Forced Marriage Survivor’s Handbook

Download Adobe PDF Document Herts Forced Marriage Information Leaflet


The Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can provide advice and guidance in relation to British Nationals being forced into marriage overseas.