What is Honour Based Abuse?

Honour Based Abuse is a term used by many cultures for justification of abuse and violence. In most honour-based abuse cases there are multiple perpetrators from the immediate family, sometimes the extended family and occasionally the community at large. It is a crime or incident committed in order to protect or defend the family or community ‘honour’.

Honour based abuse will often go hand in hand with forced marriages, although this is not always the case. Honour crimes and forced marriages are already covered by the law, and can involved a range of criminal offences.

Honour Based Abuse is often the collective term used to include Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage.

Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised or abuse is used to force them to do so. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will may be physical (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) and/or emotional and psychological (for example, making someone feel like they are bringing ‘shame’ on their family). Financial abuse (for example, taking someone’s wages) may also be a factor.

There is a clear distinction between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages, both participants give their full consent and enter the marriage willingly where as forced marriages, one or both participants enter the marriage without giving their consent. They go through with the wedding under duress from their families. Sometimes what starts out as an arranged marriage can quickly escalate to a forced marriage if one of the participants change their mind only for the family to force them to go through with it.

A new video from the Forced Marriage Unit shows the devastating impact of forced marriage on victims and their families. The aim of the film is to raise public awareness of the impact of forced marriage, and warn of the criminal consequences of involvement, building on the outreach and education work of the FMU. Told from the perspective of a victim’s older brother, who is complicit in arranging her forced marriage but unaware of its true impact until it is too late, the film represents the first time the FMU have directly targeted family members.

The government is committed to ensure that professionals who are made aware of a forced marriage victim have the training and guidance they need to provide effective advice and support. This includes police officers, social workers, teachers, and safeguarding professionals.

The Force Marriage Unit (FMU) has created:

The FMU has also developed free forced marriage e-learning for professionals which can be accessed here. The modules aim to enable professionals to recognise the warning signs and ensure that appropriate action is taken to help protect and support all those at risk.

Female Genital Mutilation

Information, guidance and resources can be found the CPLSCB FGM webpage.

Breast Ironing

Professionals working with children and young people must be able to identify the signs and symptoms of girls who are at risk of or have undergone breast ironing. Similarly to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast ironing is classified as physical abuse.

Breast ironing uses heated objects, including stones and hammers, to flatten a girl’s breasts and stop them from developing and is typically carried out when the girls are aged between 11 and 15, as they enter puberty, and is often done by the victim’s own family under the ‘misguided intention’ of protecting her from rape and sexual harassment.

As well as extreme pain and psychological damage, the practice puts the young women at increased risk of developing cysts, infections and even cancer.

Tri.x have produced a useful policy briefing on breast ironing which can be found at www.trixonline.co.uk

There is no specific law banning breast ironing in the UK and no-one has ever been prosecuted for carrying out the practice. However, offenders can be prosecuted for a range of crimes, including common assault, child cruelty and grievous bodily harm.

Professionals may be reluctant to tackle the issue because of ‘cultural sensitivities’ – the words ‘culture’, ‘tradition’ or ‘religion’ might come up when trying to explain this harmful practice, but as in the case of female genital mutilation (FGM), breast ironing is a ritualised form of child abuse.


Home Office Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy 2016-2020.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough LSCB Honour Based Violence Practice Guidance

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough LSCB Forced Marriage Practice Guidance

National multi agency practice guidance: handling cases of forced marriage

The Right to Choose: Multi-agency guidance for dealing with forced marriage.

Dealing with forced marriages – Free E-Learning Course from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Resources: Publications from the Home Office

FILM – Forced Marriage Unit video showing impact of forced marriage

Awareness of Forced Marriage Resource Pack – Virtual College

Tri.x briefing (May 2017): Male Honour Abuse