Honour based abuse, forced marriage and FGM
So-called honour-based abuse
Honour-based abuse (HBA) is abuse motivated by the belief that someone in the family has brought shame or dishonour to the family or community, and the abuse is committed to protect or defend the honour of the family or community. It’s estimated that around 76% of victims of honour-based abuse are female, but boys and men are also at risk.
In many cases, there are multiple perpetrators, within the family, extended family and sometimes the wider community.
The perpetrators aim to “correct” the victims behaviour, or restore the reputation of the family within the community. Abuse may be verbal, sexual, economic or physical and can encompass various criminal offences such as forced marriage, sexual assault, stalking and harassment, rape, coercive control, physical assault, forced suicide or murder.
Honour-based killings have been described as:
‘Murders within the framework of collective family structures, in which predominantly women are mutilated, imprisoned, forced to commit suicide and killed for actual or perceived immoral behaviour, which is deemed to have breached the honour codes of a household or community, causing shame.’ (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation)
It is estimated that one girl or woman is killed every month in the name of “honour”. There are 17,000 reported incidents of HBA or forced marriage in the UK each year.
Behaviours which may be perceived as breaching the honour codes of a household or community include:
- Refusing an arranged marriage
- Relationships outside the approved group
- ‘Inappropriate’ make-up
- Running away
- Ideological differences
- Reporting/fleeing domestic abuse, coercive control or forced marriage
- Leaving an arranged marriage
If there is a suggestion of HBA, then family, friends and neighbours must NOT be automatically involved in any safety planning. Usually, in domestic abuse cases family, friends and neighbours will offer support and keep an eye out for problems, like calling police if a perpetrator turns up, but in HBA cases it is often very difficult to identify those that could condone or be coerced into accepting abuse. The victim will be able to say whom they do trust but the safest course is to try to seek support for the victim outside the community.
There is no religious basis to HBA and forced marriage; they are widely condemned by all religious faiths and communities.
Forced marriage (FM) is a criminal offence. A forced marriage is one that is carried out without the consent of both people, meaning the victim(s) is/are pressured into marrying someone against their will. Those involved may be blackmailed or threatened to go through with the marriage and may experience honour-based abuse for refusing. Forced marriage is very different to an arranged marriage, which both people will have agreed to.
Forcing someone into marriage can lead to up to 7 years in prison. People have the right to refuse and not accept a marriage and have the right to legal protection against abuse. They can also legally separate or annul a forced marriage, within 3 years of the marriage.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO) enable family courts to protect someone from being forced into marriage or to help remove someone from their existing forced marriage. Each FMPO contains terms designed to protect the victim in their particular circumstances.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/FGC)
FGM, also known as ‘female circumcision’, ‘cutting’ or ‘Sunna’ is the name given to all procedures involving injury or partial/total removal of the external female genitalia or genital organs for non-medical reasons. There is no benefit or medical reason to justify carrying out FGM yet it is thought that 100-140 million women worldwide have undergone some form of genital mutilation, with around 60,000 girls aged 0-14 in the UK having undergone FGM.
FGM is mainly carried out by unqualified family relatives or elder (female) members of the community. It is extremely harmful with both physical, psychological, emotional and sexual short-term and long-term impacts.
The procedure usually happens without anaesthetic, using makeshift devices such as razor blades, scissors, knives, glass, sharpened rocks, and even fingernails. It is considered by many to be an extreme form of gender-based violence as it has no medical necessity.
It is illegal in the UK; it is child abuse; it violates the human rights of girls and women; and anybody involved in arranging FGM, or failing to protect a girl from FGM, faces up to 14 years in prison.
There is more information on FGM on the Oxford Against Cutting website, including information about where to seek medical support.
Resources and further reading
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