Author: Women and Equalities Committee

Related inquiry: So-called honour-based abuse

Date Published: 19 July 2023

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Summary

Victims of so-called honour-based abuse can be of any age, race, religion or sex. However, the true extent of honour-based abuse in the UK is not known. Action is required in a number of key areas, to address this issue and ensure that victims of honour-based abuse receive the support they need and deserve.

First, the limited and inconsistent data collection by police forces across the country makes it difficult to understand who is most at risk of honour-based abuse, in which communities it most often occurs in what forms it occurs, and how those communities are being served by the police and other agencies. The Government should ensure that police forces collect specific information about victims and perpetrators of honour-based abuse, including on their protected characteristics.

Secondly, victims of honour-based abuse are often scared to seek help from authorities for fear of retribution. They take huge risks in reporting the crimes against them, and it is critical that the public services in place to protect them are able to recognise that abuse at the first opportunity.The Government should set out the progress made in rolling out a national training package for frontline officers on recognising honour-based abuse.

Thirdly, our inquiry has highlighted that there is significant variation in the understanding of honour-based abuse, not least across statutory agencies. We have seen significant support for a statutory definition of honour-based abuse to be introduced by the Government, in the same way it did for the term ‘domestic abuse’ under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. In order to tackle honour-based abuse, it is essential that there is a shared understanding of the term across all agencies. To enable this, the Government should introduce a statutory definition of honour-based abuse, accompanied by statutory multi-agency guidance.

Finally, the issue of abusers using a victim’s insecure immigration status as a tool of control, exploiting the fear that reporting a crime against them will lead to action by Immigration Enforcement, must be tackled. In order to prevent perpetrators taking advantage of a victim’s immigration status, the Government should establish a firewall-type mechanism between the police and the Home Office to prevent data sharing for the purpose of immigration enforcement against victims of abuse, except in exceptional circumstances which must be narrowly defined.

The Government recently announced an extension to its ‘Support for Migrant Victims’ pilot, but this pilot does not address the shortfalls in funding for migrants with no recourse to public funds. This issue is also aggravated by the Government’s reservation on Article 59 of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, more commonly known as the ‘Istanbul Convention’. Removing this reservation would help limit perpetrators’ ability to use a victim’s immigration status as a tool for control, and we call on the Government to reconsider its position.

In addition to these four key areas, our Report also considers support for by-and-for services, which are an essential mechanism for assisting victims of honour-based abuse, the inclusion of honour-based abuse in the UK’s relationship, sex and health education curriculum, and the concept of honour-based abuse as an aggravating factor in law.