What is it?
Honour-based crimes are violent crimes or other forms of abuse that are carried out in order to protect the so-called ‘honour’ of a family or community.
The code of ‘honour’ to which it refers is set by the male relatives of a family, and women who break the rules of the code are punished for bringing shame upon the family.
Women can be subjected to honour-based punishments for trying to:
Separate or divorce
Start a new relationship
Talk to or interact freely with men
Become pregnant or give birth outside of marriage
Have relationships or marry outside a particular religion
Have sex before marriage
Marry a person of their own choice
Attend college or university
Forms of honour-based crimes can include:
Sexual violence and harassment
Threats to kill
Social ostracism or rejection and emotional pressure
Not being allowed access to your children
Pressure to go or move abroad
House arrest and restrictions of freedom
No access to telephone, internet, or passport
Isolation from friends and family
Is it a crime?
Yes, even if it doesn’t involve violence. It is a particularly under-reported crime, as often victims are too scared, coerced, idolated, or tied by family loyalties to speak out. While there is no specific offence of “honour based crime”, it is an umbrella term to encompass various offences covered by existing legislation.
Who is most at risk?
Women and girls from some black and minoritised ethnic (BAME) communities, particularly in South Asia and the Middle East.
What can you do if you are worried about someone you know?
If a person is in immediate danger, call 999.
If you are concerned that someone you know is a victim of honour-based violence, you could contact the Freephone Karma Nirvana Helpline on 0800 5999 247, which is open from 9am to 5pm weekdays and supports victims of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. You can also contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 run by Refuge.
You can also report your concerns to the police on 101. If you are in London, the Metropolitan Police are very keen that people report any concerns about honour-based crimes, and will record and investigate all instances, even if there is only a small amount of information available or when a victim has not reported it themselves. Every London borough has a team of specially trained officers, in local specialist Community Safety Units, who are responsible for investigating hate crimes and honour-based violence.
However, if you are outside London, you can still contact your local police on 101.
The police advise that you should talk to the suspected victim and encourage them to talk to someone else about it. This might be very scary for them, so even if they don’t talk about it, your support might help them in the future. You can encourage them to:
- Talk to their teacher or another responsible adult
- Contact ChildLine to talk to a professional who can offer help and advice
- Talk in confidence to one of the organisations and charities working to support survivors of honour-based crimes, such as Karma Nirvana, Southall Black Sisters, True Honour, or The Halo Project – or call the HM Government Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7708 0151.
To help you raise awareness among your community about honour-based crime and how to spot the signs, we’ve compiled a range of free campaign materials that you can use to educate and inform people in your neighbourhood.
Leaflets and posters that you can print off and hand out at events or leave in public places such as GP surgeries or schools, for people to pick up.
However, leaflets should not be put through letterboxes, just in case a perpetrator sees it and suspects the victim is seeking help or reporting their behaviour.
Online materials such as campaign websites, videos, GIFs and graphics that you can email to your local Neighbourhood Watch group members or share on social media sites such as your Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group or Twitter feed.
Neighbourhood Watch has produced a leaflet urging members to be aware of the signs of forced marriage, honour-based violence or female genital mutilation in their communities. You can find it in the Downloads section on this page.
- The BBC has produced an Ethics guide to ‘honour’ crimes.
- Crimestoppers has produced a film called Hidden harms: Honour based abuse
- Southall Black Sisters has produced a film called My second name is Honour
- The University of Derby has produced a film called Rubie’s story – Forced marriages and honour based abuse
- SafeLives, the charity that supports professionals working with survivors of domestic abuse, has published the following blogs about honour-based violence: