Honour based violence/abuse (HBV/HBA) and forced marriages


Honour based abuse (HBA): ‘So-called honour based violence is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour or the family and/or community'. (Metropolitan Police Service)

Honour based killings: ‘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)

Forced marriage (FM): One or both spouses do not consent to the marriage or consent is extracted under duress. (FMU 2005)

It is important to distinguish between forced marriage and arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are common in many cultures and have full consensual agreement between both parties.

The broad title of forced marriage should also include what is termed false marriages, whereby there is full and consensual agreement between the parties but one or both parties have given false information about their soon to be spouses, for example where there is a large discrepancy in age or the mental health of one party is not divulged until after the marriage. In addition, it should include incidents whereby family members actively force, either by emotional/psychological pressure or by physical means, one party not to marry another party.

Often honour based violence and forced marriage are seen as synonymous, but there are differences. Honour based violence, which may include emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse, is a reaction to what is perceived as immoral behaviour that brings shame/izzat/namous/sharaf on the family or community.

These ‘immoral behaviours' include:

  • running away, coming home late
  • ideological differences between parents and children
  • Westernisation
  • refusing an arranged marriage
  • relationships outside marriage
  • relationships outside the approved group
  • ‘inappropriate' make up or dress
  • loss of virginity
  • pregnancy
  • homosexuality
  • reporting/fleeing domestic abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, forced marriage
  • girls who ‘allow themselves to be raped'
  • causing gossip.

Sometimes a rumour about a family member doing one or more of the above is enough to elicit an abusive reaction.

According to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) forced marriages happen because of:

  • controlling unwanted behaviour and sexuality, particularly that of women, and preventing ‘unsuitable' relationships
  • peer group or family pressure
  • projecting perceived cultural or religious ideals which can often be misguided
  • attempting to strengthen family links
  • family honour or long standing family commitments
  • ensuring land remains within the family
  • assisting claims for residence and citizenship
  • providing a carer for a disabled family member/reducing the ‘stigma' of disability

Who it affects

The video below highlights one woman's escape from a forced marriage in Syria to return home to Australia.



The FMU deal with approximately 300 cases per year, of which around 25% result in rescue or repatriation. A report (March 2008) by Dr Nazia Khanum on forced marriage in Luton found that there were approximately 300 approaches to agencies for advice regarding forced marriage per year. Some of these may have been multiple approaches by one person and some may not have been forced into marriage. However both the FMU, Dr Khanum and specialist support agencies believe that the numbers who report are the minority, and most remain silent.

Females are mostly affected but about 15% of the cases are male victims. The most prevalent ages are between 15 and 24 but can be as young as 10 and some come forward years after being forced into marriage.

The majority of cases reported to the FMU come from Pakistan (65%), Bangladesh (25%), and India. However cases have also been reported from Cyprus, Jordan, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Mali, Norway, Bosnia, and Hong Kong. There have also been incidents from the travelling community and Ireland. It was not that long ago in the indigenous white population of Britain that there were ‘shotgun weddings', whereby people were forced into marrying when a pregnancy occurred. Today duress can be put on a family member not to marry a particular person or they may disown their child for being gay/lesbian.

Unlike domestic abuse where it is typically one person abusing another, in cases of HBV and FM the perpetrators can be one or many including:

  • father and mother
  • brother and sister
  • grandparents
  • uncles, aunts, cousins
  • community members
  • bounty hunters/'hit men'

Crimes committed:

  • false imprisonment or kidnap
  • ABH or GBH
  • threats to kill
  • harassment and stalking
  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced to commit suicide
  • murder

For every crime committed there are also numerous incidents of bullying, emotional and psychological abuse. Some victims have very restricted movements and are under constant supervision having little contact with the outside world.


  • 12 murders in the name of honour per year in Britain. However 117 murders are being reviewed to see if there is a link to HBV
  • 1 in 8 girls are murdered by their father
  • South Asian women in this country are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than their white counterparts
  • 17,000 reported incidents of HBV/FM in Britain each year
  • approximately 60 reported incidents concerning HBV/FM in Oxford every year

There is no religious basis to HBA and FM. They are widely condemned by all religious faiths and communities.

If you are being, or have been, forced into marrying someone or know of someone who is then it is important to get the right advice.

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit can give advice and support. They will not contact the victim's family.

Contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into.

Tel: 020 7008 0151
Email: fmu@fco.gov.uk .

If it is an emergency dial 999

CICK HERE for more info on FMU

Karma Nirvana

Karma Nirvana’s staff and most of its 18 volunteers are survivors of forced marriage and 'honour'-based violence.

Tel: 0800 5999 247
Website: www.karmanirvana.org.uk

Forced Marriage

This website provides advice, information and essential contacts to help people out of a forced marriage.

Website: www.forcedmarriage.net/ [site not available when last checked, March 2016]

Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Support for Farsi, Kurdish, Arabic and Turkish speaking women, girls and couples.

Tel: 0207 920 6490
Website: ikwro.org.uk

Kiran Support Services

Kiran Support Services provides safe, temporary accommodation for Asian women and their children escaping domestic violence. Also provides advice, outreach work and resettlement support.

Tel: 020 8558 1986
Email: Kiran.admin@kiranss.org.uk

Southall Black Sisters

Offering specialist advice, information, casework, advocacy, counselling and self-help support for Asian and African-Caribbean women. Services in several community languages.

Tel: 0208 571 0800
Website: www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/

National Centre for Domestic Violence

The National Centre for Domestic Violence provides a free service to everybody, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or imigration status.

Tel: 0844 8044 999
Website: www.ncdv.org.uk

Protection Against Stalking and Harassment

Provides information, support and advice to victims of stalking and harassment.

Tel: 0300 636 0300
Website: www.protectionagainststalking.org/

Rights of Women

Rights of Women works to attain justice and equality by informing, educating and empowering women on their legal rights.

Tel: 020 7251 6577
Website: www.rightsofwomen.org.uk

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