The inquiry into honour-based abuse: a call for change
Honour-based abuse (HBA) is a crime committed by an individual to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of a family or community. The abuse can take many forms, including child marriage, virginity testing, enforced abortion, breast-flattening, female genital mutilation, as well as physical, sexual and economic abuse and coercive control.
Between March 2021 and March 2022, 2,887 HBA-related offences were recorded in the UK by the police. Approximately seven cases are reported every day. However, the Home Office says that these cases are likely to only represent a small proportion of the actual offences committed.
Report of the Women and Equalities Committee
Off the back of these statistics, the Women and Equalities Committee launched an Inquiry into HBA in the UK. They recently published their findings in a report, released by the House of Commons last month.
What does the report say?
The report calls for a clear legal definition of honour-based abuse, which does exist for other crimes such as domestic violence and forced marriage but is missing for HBA.
The absence of a clear definition means that police often don’t correctly record the abuse that has occurred and the context behind it, which makes it more difficult for these crimes to be prosecuted. A lack of definition for HBA also means that victims themselves don’t fully understand the implication of what is happening to them, and so the abuse goes unreported.
As well as this, many victims do not report the abuse to police because of their immigration status in fear that they will be deported. This means that abusers can exploit the vulnerability of their victims, knowing full well that their behaviour will go unreported.
Consequently, the Women and Equalities Committee concluded in their report that careful procedures must be put into place so that the police are unable to share data with the Home Office when dealing with honour-based abuse cases. Such procedures will protect the victim from any penalties relating to their immigration status, enabling victims to report the abuse safe in the knowledge that they will be helped by the authorities, and not penalised.
How can we know if honour-based abuse is happening?
HBA can sometimes be difficult to detect as it is often a deeply embedded form of coercive control and approved by the victim’s friends and family. For example, a victim’s husband may be beating the victim daily, but their family may encourage them to stay in the relationship to prevent them from bringing ‘shame’ to the family in their community.
There are signs of honour-based abuse to look out for. Have you been threatened or abused if you’ve tried to:
- have a relationship or marry someone outside your community or someone within your community that your family don’t approve of
- separate or divorce
- talk to certain people
- have sex before marriage
- become pregnant or give birth outside of marriage
- wear clothes your family or community think are inappropriate
- use drugs or alcohol
- access higher education
- challenge what your family or community expect of you
- disagree with the religion of your family or community
If any of the above apply to you or someone you know, we are here to help.
How can we help?
Honour-based abuse is a crime. As well as finding justice by sending your abuser to prison, you may also be entitled to receive compensation for the abuse you have suffered.
At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we are experienced in representing victims of abuse to help them secure the compensation and justice they deserve. We understand the damage that abuse causes to a person, and so we know how to empathise with our clients and how to lend a sympathetic ear. Often, our clients just want to be heard, understood, and believed.
If you have been abused, we are here to help you. You can call our specialist team at no cost, any time, and we will be on call to listen to your experience and to assist you on a no-win no-fee basis.