4.4 Honour Based Abuse: Guidance

This procedure was updated on 16/09/22 and is currently uptodate.




The National Police Chief Council's definition of honour-based abuse (also called honour-based violence) 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.” 

There is currently no statutory definition of HBA.

Many people refer to Honour Based Abuse as ‘so-called honour-based abuse’ or ‘dishonour-based abuse’ because there is no ‘honour’ in abuse

BSCP will continue to use the term ‘Honour Based Abuse’ to avoid confusion


'Honour based Abuse', which includes forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights. It very frequently involves the commission of crimes.

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 honour'. Such crimes are shameful and bring dishonour on the perpetrators.

Honour based Abuse is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families and/or communities to protect perceived cultural & religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative or community member has shamed the family and / or community by breaking their honour code or code of behaviour. An honour code can define a family's mindset, way of life or lifestyle.

Women and girls are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims of 'honour based abuse', which is used to assert male power in order to control female autonomy and sexuality.

'Honour Based Abuse' 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.

Examples may include murder, un-explained death (suicide), fear of or actual forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, threats to kill, assault, harassment, forced abortion. This list is not exhaustive. Such abuse cuts across all cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities. It transcends national and international boundaries.

We have learnt that concepts of honour and shame have long been associated with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in affected communities, where there are actual or threatened forced marriages and where the potential for other forms of honour based abuse are seen as a significant and real threat.


In addition we know that Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers as racial groups have their own honour code, which governs the conduct of women and girls.


Professionals should be alert to the fact that in cases of honour-based abuse the partner can also be at risk and therefore appropriate consideration should be given to their safety and welfare.


Professionals should respond to honour-based abuse in a similar way to cases of domestic abuse and forced marriage:

  • facilitate disclosure.
  • develop individual safety plans.
  • ensure the child’s safety by according them confidentiality in relation to the rest of the family.
  • complete individual risk assessments.



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


Honour-based abuse cuts across all cultures and communities, and cases encountered in the UK have involved families from Turkish, Kurdish, Afghani, South Asian, African, Middle Eastern, South and Eastern European communities. This is not an exhaustive list.


The perceived immoral behaviour which could precipitate honour-based abuse violence include, but are not limited to:

  • inappropriate make-up or dress
  • the existence of a boyfriend
  • kissing or intimacy in a public place
  • rejecting a forced marriage
  • pregnancy outside of marriage
  • being a victim of rape
  • inter-faith relationships
  • leaving a spouse or seeking divorce
  • identifying as LGBT+.

Honour-based crimes are often the planned culmination of a series of events over a period of time. There tends to be a degree of premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die.


Incidents, in addition to those listed above, which may precede a murder include:

  • Physical abuse.
  • Emotional abuse, including:
    • False imprisonment and excessive restrictions
    • denial of access to the telephone, internet, passport and friends
    • threats to kill.
  • 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.

Children sometimes truant from school to obtain relief from being controlled at home by relatives. They can feel isolated from their family and social networks and become depressed, which can on some occasions lead to self-harm or suicide.


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


Victims may be more isolated due to religious and/or cultural pressures, language barriers, having no recourse to public funds or fear of bringing shame to their ‘family honour’.


Victims with a learning or physical disability may be more vulnerable to abuse. Vulnerabilities may include (not exhaustive):

  • dependency on a carer
  • financial dependency
  • social isolation

Disclosure and response


When receiving a disclosure from a child, professionals should recognise the seriousness/immediacy of the risk of harm.


For a child to report to any agency that they have fears of honour-based abuse in respect of themselves or a family member requires a lot of courage, and trust that the professional/agency they disclose to will respond appropriately. 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.


Authorities in some countries may support the practice of honour-based abuse, and the child may be concerned that other agencies share this view, or that they will be returned to their family. The child may be carrying guilt about their rejection of cultural/family expectations. Furthermore, their immigration status may be dependent on their family, which could be used to dissuade them from seeking assistance.


Where there is a disclosure of suspicion of honour-based abuse, staff in all agencies/organisations should respond immediately by referring to social care First Response Team, or where there is imminent risk, directly to the police.

Staff in all agencies should make full records of any conversation with the young person and ensure that they complete an accurate account of what is said.


Referring agencies should make an assessment of risk of harm using a dedicated assessment tool e.g. Honour Based Abuse, DASH Risk Checklist


The social care and police response should include:

  • seeing the child immediately in a secure and private place
  • seeing the child on their own
  • explaining to the child the limits of confidentiality
  • asking direct questions to gather enough information to make a referral to Children’s Social Care and the police, including recording the child’s wishes
  • encouraging and/or helping the child to complete a personal risk assessment
  • developing an emergency safety plan with the child
  • agreeing a means of discreet future contact with the child explaining that a referral to Children’s Social Care and the police will be made
  • record all discussions and decisions (including rationale if no decision is made to refer to Children’s Social Care)
  • if the young person is under 18 years of age, refer them to the designated person with responsibility for safeguarding children and activate local safeguarding procedures. A strategy meeting should be held following this referral. The strategy meeting will include representatives from agencies involved with the young person and this would include children's services, health, police and education as an example. It is important that the person who has identified the concern is available to attend this meeting. The strategy meeting allows all information to be shared and safeguarding actions to be put in place.

Accurate record keeping in all cases of violence/abuse in the name of 'honour' is important. Records should:

  • Be accurate, detailed, clear and include the date;
  • Use the person's own words in quotation marks;
  • Document any injuries – include photographs, body maps or pictures of their injuries;
  • Only be available to those directly involved in the person's case.


Practitioners must take care that information which increases the risk to the child is not inadvertently shared with family members. All agencies and professionals working around or with the child must be informed of the need to maintain strict confidentiality in relation to the family and social network; great care must be taken to manage information about the whereabouts of the young person


Professionals should not 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.


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


Multi-agency planning should consider the need for providing suitable safe accommodation for the child, as appropriate.


If a child is taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating them to the UK. 

Related Policies, Procedures, and Guidance

This page is correct as printed on Friday 12th of July 2024 09:05:19 PM please refer back to this website (http://bscb.procedures.org.uk) for updates.