Honour-based abuse

So called "honour-based" abuse is abuse that is perpetrated in order to protect or defend the honour of a family or community.

“Honour-based” abuse is often referred to as “so called” as there is a need to be clear that there is no honour in abusing someone.  As seen in the definition below, “honour-based” abuse is often carried out to prevent or as a result of the victim bringing shame on their family or the wider community.  Transgressions can be relatively minor, but the consequences significant potentially resulting in the victim’s death.

Although women are often seen as the main victims of “honour-based” abuse, men can be victims too.  More recently there has been a move to highlight the under-reported issue of male victims of honour abuse. Male victims may be those deemed to be: in an inappropriate relationship, gay or supporting the victim of other abuse.

This is not just something that affects adults, children can be victims of honour-based abuse as well.

Such abuse comes under the umbrella term of harmful practices.

Definition of so called "honour-based" abuse

Honour based abuse (HBA) is an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and / or community’s code of behaviour.

Crown Prosecution Service

Quotation marks

The impact of shame

The majority of incidents of so called ‘honour’-based abuse occur when it is perceived that the victim has brought or may bring shame on their family and / or on the wider community, in effect tarnishing the image of their family or community. ‘Honour’-based abuse is not linked to any specific communities and cuts across various nationalities, cultures, faith groups and communities.   The abuse may be ‘justified’ on grounds including that a person:

  • has worn unapproved make-up or clothing;
  • is having an unapproved relationship (girlfriend / boyfriend / same-sex);
  • has engaged in intimacy in a public place;
  • has rejected a forced marriage;
  • is pregnant outside of marriage;
  • has been a victim of rape;
  • is in an inter-faith relationship;
  • and / or has left a spouse or sought divorce, etc.

Perpetrators of honour-based abuse

Although it can be the family who perceive that they have been wronged and had shame brought onto them by the actions of a family member, it should also be noted that there may be multiple perpetrators of so called “honour-based” abuse. Relatives may conspire, support, or participate in acts of abuse as may members of the wider community. “Honour-based” abuse can include, but is not limited to: murder, attempted or actual forced marriage, domestic abuse, child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault, harassment and/or forced abortion.

Vulnerable children

It is not just adults who can be victims of so called honour-based abuse.  Children can be victims as well.  Transgressions may be significant events such as pregnancy or a relationship that is not approved of, or may be considered to be relatively insignificant and the result of children and young people growing up in different cultures (for example wanting to wear different clothes or make-up).  Children with additional needs or who are part of the LGBTQ+ community may also be seen as bringing shame on the family potentially leading to them being victims of abuse.

Indicators of “honour-based” abuse

As with all types of abuse, you will know the children you work with and if you have concerns these should be flagged to your designated safeguarding lead.  Below, are some potential indicators that you may see:

  • Sudden absence from school
  • Prolonged foreign travel
  • Technology withdrawn
  • Constantly chaperoned
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Physical injuries

What you can do

  • If you are worried about a child/young person you must report it straightaway to your designated safeguarding lead.
  • Ensure children/young people know the risks – talk about so called “honour-based” abuse at an age appropriate level in the same way we do about consent, drugs and other issues.
  • Check children and young people have safe relationships – in their family, with their peers and with staff. Create the environment where it’s ok to talk even about the most difficult things.
  • Spot the signs and know what to do – use the checklists above, your safeguarding procedures and be confident in raising ‘honour’-based abuse as a possibility.
  • Take action – and keep taking action until you know they are safe.


  • Victim Support – guidance on “honour-based” abuse for young people

    A child-friendly web page explaining what ‘honour’-based abuse is and what to do.

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