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2.2.12 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Honour Based Violence


This chapter should be read in conjunction with the March 2010 update of The Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage Legal Guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service.


1. Introduction
2. Definitions
3. What is Honour Based Violence or Killing?
4. Recognition
5. Immediate Response
6. Recording Information
7. Action to Take if you think a Child / Young Person is at Risk of HBV
  7.1 Children / Young People in Immediate Danger
  7.2 Child's Assessment by Children’s Social Care
  7.3 Strategy Meeting / Discussion
  7.4 Section 47 Enquiries
  7.5 Child Protection Conference
8. Training
9. Useful Contacts
  Appendix 1: Local and National Case Studies

1. Introduction

Honour based violence (HBV), where it affects children and young people, is a child protection issue. It is an abuse of human rights. Children and young people who suffer HBV are at risk of significant harm through physical, sexual, psychological and emotional harm. In some cases they are also at risk of being killed.

There is much debate, nationally and locally, about the appropriateness of the term ‘honour’ based violence. Obviously. there is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up ‘violence in the name of so-called honour’. The term relates to the offender/s interpretation of the motivation for their actions. Until another term is agreed, this protocol will use the term honour based violence.

The aim of this protocol is to provide practitioners in Rotherham with information about HBV, and guidance about what to do if they are concerned about a child or young person. It should be read in conjunction with the following documents produced by Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board:

2. Definitions

HBV is a collection of practices which are used to control behaviour within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. It may be referred to in some communities as ‘Izzat’. It is often committed with some degree of approval and / or collusion from family and / or community members. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and / or community, by breaking their honour code.

Women are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims of ‘so called honour based violence’, which is used to assert male power in order to control female autonomy and sexuality.

‘Honour Based Violence’ can be distinguished from other forms of violence, as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and / or community members.

HBV can take place across national and international boundaries, within extended families and communities and often cuts across cultures, communities and faith groups; including Turkish, Kurdish, Afghani, South Asian, African, Middle Eastern and European. This is not an exhaustive list.

The term is used to describe violence, which sometimes results in a murder, in the name of so-called honour. This is when - predominantly - women are injured or killed for perceived immoral behaviour, which is deemed to have breached the honour code of a family or community, causing shame.

Honour based violence’ is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community’. (Association of Chief Police Officers, 2008).

HBV may include murder, unexplained death (suicide), fear of or actual forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, threats to kill, assault, harassment, forced abortion, female genital mutilation.

3. What is Honour Based Violence or Killing?

HBV is a cultural, not a religious phenomenon. It impacts in a range of communities. The challenges for services include developing responses that keep people safe and hold perpetrators to account without stereotyping, stigmatising or making assumptions about any given individual or community.

HBV, which may include forced marriage and / or female genital mutilation, is perpetrated against children and young people for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Protecting family ‘honour’ or ‘Izzat’;
  • To control un-wanted behaviour and sexuality (including perceived promiscuity or being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender);
  • As a response to family, community or peer group pressure;
  • Strengthening family links;
  • Protecting perceived cultural and/or religious ideals (mis-guided or dated);
  • Retaining wealth, property or land within the family;
  • Assisting claims for residence and citizenship in the UK;
  • Perceived immoral behaviour could include:
    • Inappropriate make-up or dress;
    • Possession and / or use of a mobile telephone;
    • Kissing or showing other forms of intimacy in public;
    • Rejecting a forced marriage;
    • Being a victim of rape or other serious sexual assault;
    • Inter-faith relationships;
    • And seeking a divorce.

Practitioners should never lose sight of the fact that they are interacting with extremely vulnerable women and men, who may be faced with making life changing decisions in an extremely short space of time. Many honour based violence victims, as in mainstream domestic abuse, just want the abuse to stop. They fear 'criminalising' their parents, families and/or their faith group and fear being isolated from their communities.

A child or young woman who is at risk of honour based violence is at significant risk of physical harm (including being murdered), and / or neglect. They may also suffer significant emotional harm, as a result of a threat of violence or witnessing violence directed towards a sibling or other family member

Authorities in some countries may support the practice of honour-based violence. Therefore the child or young person may be concerned that other agencies share this view, or that they will be returned to their family. They may feel guilty about their rejection of their cultural / family expectations, and also what impact this may have on their family within their community. Furthermore, their immigration status may be dependent on their family, which could also dissuade them from seeking assistance.

Professionals should respond in a similar way to cases of honour based violence, as with domestic abuse and forced marriage. This includes facilitating disclosure, developing safety plans for the child or young person and any other family member as necessary, ensuring their safety by according them confidentiality in relation to the rest of the family, and completing individual risk assessments.

Boys as well as girls can be subject to HBV; gay, lesbian young people can be particularly vulnerable.

There is also close link with forced marriage - a young person may at risk of further HBV if seeking to avoid forced marriage and forced marriage is in itself HBV.

4. Recognition

Killings that result in the name of ‘so-called honour’ may be the culmination of a series of events over a period of time and may be planned. There may be a degree of premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die. Incidents, in addition to those listed above, may involve all the categories of child abuse (physical, emotional, sexual and neglect) for example:

  • Domestic abuse;
  • Starting a new relationship with someone whom the family does not approve;
  • Threats to kill;
  • Denial of access to children;
  • Pressure to go abroad (victims are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences, when in fact the intention could be to kill them);
  • House arrest and / or excessive restrictions of movement / travel and other activities;
  • Denial of access to the telephone, internet, passport and friends.

Children and young people may truant from school to temporarily avoid being policed at home by relatives. As a result they can feel isolated from their family and friends and may become depressed. This can sometimes result in self-harm, or suicide.

Families may feel shame long after the incident that brought about dishonour occurred. Therefore the risk of harm to a child or young person can persist for sometime. This may mean that a new boy / girlfriend, baby (if pregnancy caused the family to feel ‘shame’), associates or siblings may also be at risk of harm.

Children and young people who have been raped may be perceived by relatives as having brought it upon themselves; a family member(s) may inflict violence or kill them as a consequence. Young women who have fled their marriage are often perceived as bringing shame upon their family. As a result they may be at risk, not only from their spouses and in-laws, but also from their own father, brothers, sons and wider community. This is also likely to result in isolation, depression self harm, and sometimes suicide.

Victims of honour based violence are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences, when in fact the intention could be to kill them. If a child or young woman has been, or is at risk of being, taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating them to the United Kingdom (telephone 020 7008 1500).

5. Immediate Response

If you are concerned that a child or young person is at risk of honour based violence, it is essential that you recognise the seriousness and immediacy of the risk of harm, and act immediately.

It takes a lot of courage for a child or young person to report to an agency that they have afraid that they will be, or have been, subjected to HBV. It is essential, therefore, that you act in a manner that will not further jeopardise the child or young person’s safety. It is vital that the following points are adhered to for the safety of the child or young person:

  • Under no circumstances should the agency allow the child’s family or social network to find out about the disclosure, so as not to put the child at further risk of harm;
  • Under no circumstances speak to victims in the presence of their relatives;
  • Under no circumstances approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation. In particular, members of the local community should not be used as interpreters.

Where a child or young person discloses fear of honour based violence in respect of them or a family member, professionals in all agencies should:

  • Take the disclosure seriously;
  • See the child or young person immediately, and in a secure and private place;
  • Seeing the child or young person on their own;
  • Explain to the child or young person the limits of confidentiality, what information may have to be shared, with whom and for what purpose;
  • Ask direct questions to gather enough information to make a referral to Children’s Social Care and the Police, including recording the child / young person’s wishes;
  • Agree a means of discreet future contact with the child / young person;
  • Explain that a referral to Children’s Social Care and South Yorkshire Police will be made.

6. Recording Information

 It is vital that you make sure that you make a full record of:

  • What is said;
  • By whom;
  • What you have done;
  • What action you have taken;
  • Who you have referred the child / young person to; and
  • What they have said to you about the referral and any subsequent action.

Caution is required about how information is recorded and shielded within the organisation / on internal systems.

7. Action to Take if you think a Child / Young Person is at Risk of HBV

Any information or concern that a child / young person is at risk of, or has already suffered HBV should result in an immediate referral to either South Yorkshire Police Public Protection Unit which covers the Rotherham area (0114 220 2020), or Children’s Social Care Services Access Team.

In an emergency – do not delay – ring 999.

7.1 Children / Young People in Immediate Danger

Multi-agency planning should consider the need for providing suitable safe accommodation for the child or young person, as appropriate. Local authorities can apply to the courts for various orders, such as an Emergency Protection Order, under the Children Act 1989, to protect a child or young person at risk of HBV. In emergency situations consideration should also be given to the use of Police Protection. However these expire after 72 hours, so further provisions would have to be considered after this time.

7.2 Child's Assessment by Children’s Social Care

Children’s Social Care should incorporate into their Child's Assessment the safety planning, self-assessment and risk assessment processes, as per the guidance contained in Safeguarding Children at Risk because of Domestic Abuse Procedure.

7.3 Strategy Meeting / Discussion

Once a referral has been received for either a child / young person who is at risk or has already suffered HBV, a Strategy Meeting / Discussion must be convened within two working days. This should involve representatives from the police, Children’s Social Care Services, and education. Relevant health care providers or voluntary / community / specialist community based organisations with specific expertise (for example HBV, domestic violence, or sexual abuse) should also be invited. Consideration should also be given to inviting a legal advisor.

7.4 Section 47 Enquiries

HBV places a child / young person at risk of significant harm and will therefore be initially investigated under Section 47 of the Children Act by Children’s Social Care and South Yorkshire Police Public Protection Unit for the Rotherham area.

An interpreter must be used in if the preferred language of the child / young person not English.

7.5 Child Protection Conference

All multi-agency discussions should recognise the police responsibility to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation as appropriate.

Children and young people who return to their families should be offered support including escape plans, the option to deposit their DNA, finger prints and photograph with the police.

8. Training

Training about HBV and Forced Marriage is available to Rotherham front line practitioners as part of the domestic abuse multi-agency training courses. For more information, contact. Rotherham Borough Council Domestic Violence Coordinator on 01709 334567. 

9. Useful Contacts

Karma Nirvana
Helpline Number: 0800 5999 247
Henna Foundation
Tel: 029 2049 6920

Appendix 1: Local and National Case Studies

The following are examples of the types of situations about which a local specialist agency has been contacted:

A 17 year old young woman met a young man via Facebook. They conversed regularly and then met a few times. He got her to buy various things for him. She thought it was a legitimate relationship with a potential future. The young man then suggested that they met in a hotel. There he took pictures of her with his phone camera, in compromising positions. A few weeks later he contacted her to say that if she did not continue to give him money he would publish the pictures across South Yorkshire. It materialised that throughout the ‘relationship’ he got her to spend money on him, including the hotel booking. It also became apparent that he was not acting alone, and that others were also involved. Her mother became aware of the situation and was supportive, realising that her daughter has been targeted and exploited. However, neither the young woman nor her mother wanted her father to find out as they were concerned what the consequences could be. He had very strong feelings about the family izzat (honour) and they were very worried that he would take action against his daughter and wife.

A 15 year old young woman said her parents were not happy with her friends. After giving her several warnings, her family begun to monitor her movements and started to lock her in her bedroom. Her parents and older brother started to threaten her. She was referred to the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Operational Unit.          

National Learning: Banaz Mahmood

The murder of Banaz Mahmood highlighted the lack of knowledge surrounding such issues within the police and was the catalyst for change.

Banaz lived in London and was 20 years old when she was murdered in 2006. She had been subject of an arranged marriage to a violent husband and she began an affair with a family friend. Her family, particularly her father strongly disapproved of this as it brought dishonour to the family. She was imprisoned and beaten for the dishonour she brought to the family and then allowed to return home. She continued the affair and her father and uncle decided she should die and ordered her murder. She was found three months later murdered and buried in a suitcase in a garden in Birmingham.

From the outset Banaz had been in contact with the police and told them she was receiving threats from her family, was being beaten and feared she would be killed. The police took little in the way of action.

Implications and Action

ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Strategy was produced in 2008. SYP works towards the strategic and policy recommendations. SYP HQ Public Protection Unit takes the lead in this area, working with other SYP units.