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3.3.3 Honour Based Violence


Please also see Forced Marriage (Cambridgeshire SCB)

This chapter was added to this manual in October 2017.


  1. Introduction
  2. Honour Based Violence
  3. Honour
  4. Possible Indicators of Honour Based Violence
  5. Responding to Concerns
  6. Referral and Assessment
  7. Further Action

1. Introduction

The term 'Honour Based Violence' (HBV) is the internationally recognised term describing cultural justifications for violence and abuse against women, men and children.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) defines HBV as:

'A crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community'.

HBV is normally associated with cultures and communities from Asia, the Middle East and Africa and also occurs in communities in parts of Europe and Eastern Europe. In reality, HBV cuts across all cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities and transcends national and international boundaries.

HBV is also a domestic abuse issue, a child protection concern and a crime. In terms of domestic abuse risk assessments, HBV is a significant risk factor for victims and must be regarded as a significant predictor of the likelihood of future harm or homicide.

HBV generally occurs in domestic settings and can involve a range of offending behaviours which are used against individuals, families or other social groups to control and protect perceived cultural / religious beliefs and honour. It may include murder, fear of, or actual, forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic violence and abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional), child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault, harassment and forced abortion. This list is not exhaustive.

These crimes cut across all cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities though are not endorsed by any religion. They transcend national and international boundaries are seen as violations of human rights and there is no 'honour' in their commission. Incidences of Honour Based Violence are prosecuted under the specific offence committed e.g. common assault, grievous bodily harm, harassment, kidnap, rape and murder.

Incidents involving children and young people will be investigated as child protection concerns. This document should be read alongside child protection procedures.

However, it should be noted that cases may not fit with some of the principles of working with children and families, as they may, inadvertently, place the victim at greater risk of harm. This includes information sharing, the assumption that the best place for a child or young person is with their family and the practice of attempting to resolve cases through family mediation, counselling, arbitration or reconciliation.

2. Honour Based Violence

HBV may occur when the perpetrator(s) perceive that a person (or persons) has shamed the family or community by breaking an honour code. The violence used can include planning, premeditation and family or community conspiracy. Often the belief held is that the victim is 'deserving' of the punishment.

Honour Based Violence can often be a form of domestic and / or sexual violence. The Home Office definition of domestic violence and abuse which HBV is related to, now applies to young people aged 16 years and over. However, all offences against, or potential risks to, children and young people under 18 must be viewed as child protection concerns.

3. Honour

Honour Based Violence is perpetrated for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Protecting family honour or reputation. 'Izzat' is an Urdu word sometimes used to describe this;
  • To control unwanted behaviour and sexuality (including perceived promiscuity or being lesbian, gay, bisexual or Transgender);
  • As a response to family, community or peer group pressure;
  • Protecting perceived cultural and/or religious ideals (misguided or dated);
  • Preventing unsuitable relationships;
  • Retaining wealth, property or land within the family;
  • Perceived immoral behaviour including:
    • Inappropriate make-up or dress;
    • Possession and / or use of a mobile telephone;
    • 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.

This may arise through:

  • Defying parental authority;
  • Becoming 'westernised' in style of clothes, make-up, behaviour and attitudes;
  • Women having sex, relationships and/or pregnancy outside of marriage;
  • Use of drugs; alcohol, or cigarettes;
  • Gossip – family honour can be damaged by rumour and gossip that is not true but believed to be true by other members of the community;
  • Leaving a spouse or seeking a divorce;
  • Having a boyfriend / girlfriend;
  • Wishing to marry outside of faith.

Children and young people can be victims of HBV either directly or indirectly. Honour Based Violence involving children means that they are at significant risk of actual physical harm, neglect and emotional harm through the threat of, or witnessing, violence.

Families may feel shame long after the incident that brought about 'dishonour' occurred so the risk of serious harm to a child can persist.

The consequences for the victim include:

  • Ostracism / being disowned by their family and community;
  • Physical / emotional abuse of the victim by family members, spouse and in-laws;
  • Restriction of freedom/loss of independence;
  • Isolation from family and community, but also being on 'house arrest' or kept from seeing friends;
  • Internalisation of guilt / shame by the victim and feeling conflicted for wanting to be themselves but also not wanting to hurt or shame their family;
  • Forced marriage (see Forced Marriage Procedure);
  • Being sent (or threatened) to live elsewhere, either in the UK or overseas;
  • Violence, including assault, rape, murder by family or community members.

4. Possible Indicators of Honour Based Violence

Isolation is one of the biggest problems facing those trapped in, or under threat of violence. Many children or young people who face violence will not even discuss their worries with their friends for fear their families may find out.

All practitioners should be aware of behaviours and experiences that could be related to a young person experiencing honour based violence directly or indirectly. These include children/ young people:

  • Going missing (from home and school) in an attempt to keep themselves safe;
  • Being restricted in their movements and overly supervised;
  • Prevented from seeing friends and/or family members;
  • Being denied access to the internet, mobile phones and their passport;
  • Being forced to marry or forced to live elsewhere;
  • Being withdrawn from education and /or requests for extended leave from school;
  • Being subject to unreasonable financial control, for example confiscation of wages/income.

5. Responding to Concerns

Honour Based Violence places young people and vulnerable adults at risk of possible physical and emotional harm. Some cases have resulted in the child or young person being murdered. Therefore Honour Based Violence should be considered as a potential risk factor in any assessment. All agencies need to be aware of Honour Based Violence, its likely consequences and the possibility of dealing with the issue.

It is important that staff of all agencies understand the difficulties that children and young people face when living with the threat or consequences of Honour Based Violence. In addition, they are likely to have no experience of living outside the family and may face rejection and harassment by the family and their community.

Information or a referral about Honour Based Violence may be received from the child or young person, from a friend or relative, or from a statutory, voluntary or faith organisation.

If a child tells a practitioner about actual or threatened honour based violence in respect of themselves or another family member, the practitioner should:

  • See the child alone in a safe and private place to obtain their wishes, views and feelings and explain confidentiality fully, including the need to share information;
  • Record information carefully. Caution is required about how information is recorded and shielded within the organisation to ensure the child's safety;
  • NOT make contact with the family or community leaders and should not under any circumstances, tell the family or their social network about what the child has said, attempt mediation or use members of the community to interpret on behalf of the child;
  • Immediately make a child protection referral to Children's Social Care who will investigate in partnership with the Police.

It should be noted that HBV does not stand alone. It is closely linked with domestic abuse and consequently any planning and / or interventions should also fit with existing domestic abuse guidance, policy and procedures.

6. Referral and Assessment

It is important for Social Care to obtain as much information as possible when a child or young person is first referred, as there may not be another opportunity. A record should be taken of the child or young person's immediate personal details and the family details including any information about the need for an interpreter.

Full details of the allegation should be recorded, including details of any threats or hostile actions against the child or young person.

HBV should be viewed as a form of domestic abuse/violence and any referring professional should also complete the DASH form.

Honour Based Violence potentially places a child / young person at risk of significant harm therefore any referral should initially be investigated as a Section 47 enquiry and a strategy meeting must be convened within two working days. This should involve Police and health representatives at a minimum, with other professionals from education and specialist based organisations invited. Consideration should also be given to inviting a Legal Advisor.

When assessing the risk of harm, a full family history must be taken to consider any abuse or threat of abuse to any other member of the family as well as the possibility that there might be a 'secret' boy or girlfriend, pregnancy or risk of self-harming.

No contact should be made with the family until there has been a strategy agreed with the Police due to the need to consider the possible protection of the child from abuse / disappearance.

Workers must think very carefully about the need to disclose information and with whom it may be shared. Disclosure may lead to the child or young person's estrangement from the family and increase the likelihood of the child or young person suffering significant harm. If approached, parents may deny that the child or young person is at risk of violence, move the child or young person, expedite any travel arrangements and bring forward any perpetration of violence.

The CCC IDVA Service is a voluntary service providing crisis intervention support and safety planning to high risk victims of Domestic Abuse, within the definitions of the government definition of DV. In addition, a Young person's IDVA provides support across all risk levels to young people aged between 13 and 19 years who are suffering abuse from intimate partners or ex-partners. Clients of the YP IDVA require victim consent as part of their referral pathway.

A nominated IDVA worker will be invited to attend CP strategy meetings, where risks of HBV have been identified as part of a DV reported incident.

If the victim is willing to engage with the IDVA Service, they will work with the client and partner services to establish the following:

  • By use of the Safe Lives Dash/YP Dash tool, as appropriate, they will assess the level of immediate and ongoing risk, taking into account historic abusive behaviours if any;
  • If the child is over 16 years or over (or 13 years if the abuse is intimate), they will provide safeguarding advice and support to the child or young person victim;
  • Agree any limitations on information sharing, both with the family and partner agencies;
  • Consider the possible need for immediate protection and placement away from the family;
  • Assess any concerns for the safety of any other family member who is a DV victim (child or adult). Service thresholds withstanding, an additional IDVA can be allocated to support other identified victims;
  • Consider whether a recorded crime may have been committed/threatened and what action will be taken in response;
  • To take consideration of existing risks that may indicate a high risk of HBV or generic DV high risk of harm.

If the DV victims has declined to work with the IDVA service, the nominated IDVA will as a consultative safeguarding partner to assist with safeguarding measures and advice in reducing risks.

The specialist IDVA worker should attend the strategy meeting which, in addition to its normal remit, should:

  • Assess the level of immediate and ongoing risk;
  • Agree any advice to be given to the child or young person on personal safety;
  • Agree any limitations on information sharing, both with the family and partner agencies;
  • Consider the possible need for immediate protection and placement away from the family;
  • Assess any concerns for the safety of any other family member (child or adult);
  • Consider whether a crime may have been committed/threatened and what action will be taken in response.

The Police have their own HBV protocols and the strategy meeting and it is for them to ensure that an Appropriate Adult and, if needed, an accredited interpreter is in attendance at all Police interviews. Involving members of the extended family or community leaders would not be appropriate in this situation, or for subsequent social care interviews whilst the assessment is ongoing.

Following the strategy meeting, Social Care and the Police should arrange to see the child on their own in a secure and private place. Consideration should be given to the professionals allocated to talk with the child, to minimise any anxiety.

Staff should take particular care not to:

  • Use family members, friends, neighbours or community leaders as interpreters;
  • Send the child or young person back to the family home against their wishes;
  • Approach the child or young person's family or friends or others within the child or young person's community without the child or young person's explicit consent;
  • Notify the family in advance of enquiries;
  • Attempt to mediate between the child or young person and the family except at the child or young person's specific request;
  • Breach the child or young person's confidentiality, unless this is necessary to ensure their safety.

When arranging to see the child or young person, thought should be given to where and when this should happen. For example, if they are coming to an office, the appointment might be organised out of hours to minimise risks to their safety, or a neutral venue used so if they are seen, it is not associated with the police or social care.

They should be interviewed in a secure and private place, normally on their own, though they might wish to have someone with them. They may want to be seen by a person of the same gender and may also want to talk to someone from their own community or specifically avoid talking to someone from their community.

The person interviewing the child or young person should:

  • Discuss the range of options available to and the possible consequences of each course of action;
  • Signpost them to an appropriate adviser and / or make them aware of their right to seek legal advice and representation;
  • Help develop a “cover story” - a plausible alternative reason for them being at the social work office/ police station etc. in case they are seen there.

Information about the child or young person and her / his whereabouts must be kept confidential. Access should preferably be restricted to named members of staff. This includes both paper-based and computer records. The child's record on ICS should be locked, at least whilst the assessment is ongoing.

When undertaking their enquiries, the worker should be continually alert to the risk that the family will become aware that enquiries are being made.

It should be noted that some families will be intent on finding the child or young person and often private investigators have been used to do this. Many times the family may approach a third party such as a local Councillor or MP with an apparently reasonable request to contact the child or young person. Do not provide information without checking with a manager and the child or young person first.

7. Further Action

Situations involving possible HBV are not suitable for a Family Group Conference because of the risk of physical danger and emotional manipulation which the child or young person may experience as a result.

Where an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, great care must be taken to manage information about the whereabouts of the child or young person. The social worker and their manager must discuss the arrangements with the Conference Chair and consider whether the family should be present or not, or at the same time as the child or young person, as threats or coercion may be made or implied.

If the child or young person is in immediate danger, it may be necessary to consider admission to local authority accommodation, an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection. In this situation it is not appropriate to rely on the extended family to provide a place of safety unless the child or young person can identify a relative in whom they have absolute trust. It may be necessary to place the child or young person outside her or his community and in a different local authority area.

Careful thought must be given to contact arrangements to ensure pressure is not directly or indirectly applied to the child/young person.

The carers must be given full information on the child's background and advice on the possible risks posed to the child/young person by close family members, extended family members and community groups, and this should be considered when identifying a suitable placement.

The Police should also consider placing a location of interest marker on the address where the child/young person is accommodated. Carers must be fully briefed on the importance of confidentiality, the risks associated with HBV and the need to call the Police if they have any concerns for the safety of the child or themselves (999 in an emergency). Care must be taken to ensure they or the child are not followed after contact or meetings to enable their home address to be identified.

Children and young people who stay at home should be offered support regarding safety / escape plans and the option to deposit their DNA, passport number, fingerprints and photograph with the Police (need to check this as local practice).

It is essential to devise a way of contacting them discreetly without placing them at increased risk of harm. This should include a code word to ensure that contact has been made with the right person. Consideration should also be given to the possibility that written communications including emails may be intercepted and that telephone communications may be detected, for example, through the phone bill.

If the child or young person wishes to remain in the family home a safety plan should be developed with them, looking at how to raise the alarm if there are concerns about increased risk to safety, access to emergency money and an escape plan.

In some circumstances, a child or young person may be taken overseas to protect honour and they might be forced to marry. Any such concerns should be taken seriously, but the arrangement of an extended holiday should not be assumed to imply violence or that a forced marriage is planned. (See Forced Marriage procedure).

Additional information/support may be available through:

  • Karma Nirvana, a national charity supporting the victims of honour based crime and forced marriage;
  • The Halo Project Charity, a national project that will support victims of honour-based violence, forced marriages and FGM.