Our response to the Call for Evidence on HBA
We are proud to support the Women and Equalities Committee in their recent Inquiry on Honour Based Abuse, which is a critical step forward in addressing this serious issue.
As the first Parliamentary Inquiry with a specific focus on Honour Based Abuse since 2008, this Inquiry is poised to provide a comprehensive look at the current state of Honour Based Abuse in the UK. We are honoured to be a part of this important effort and look forward to the outcomes of this Inquiry.
It is our hope that this Parliamentary Inquiry will provide a platform for the voices of victims and survivors to be heard, and for their experiences to be recognised and understood. We believe that the Inquiry will provide an updated view in bringing much-needed attention to the issue of Honour Based Abuse and its impact on the lives of those affected.
Furthermore, we hope that this Inquiry will result in greater awareness, understanding, and recognition of Honour Based Abuse by the public, as well as by professionals working in the field. This will provide the basis for effective and coordinated multi-agency responses to help prevent Honour Based Abuse and support those affected by it.
Through our work, we recognise that four overarching barriers limit the progress in tackling Honour Based Abuse. These are:
- Poor Governmental Accountability – Honour Based Abuse is not widely recognised as a form of domestic abuse or positioned within the wider framework of Violence Against Women and Girls.
- Honour Based Abuse is not Understood – Honour Based Abuse is frequently misunderstood, misidentified & placed into a cultural cul-de-sac.
- Limited and Inconsistent Data – There is limited & inconsistent data available in the UK to prioritise these issues, which directly impacts the sustainability of safe spaces.
- Limited Safe Spaces – There are limited specialist safe spaces available for victims and survivors to speak out.
Summary of Key Issues
The following summary draws attention to the main key issues as detailed in our full submission. These key issues are not exhaustive but seek to highlight twelve key issues that Karma Nirvana believe the Women and Equalities committee should be particularly alert to for this Inquiry:
- Development and responses to Honour Based Abuse have often been reactive and remain underpinned by problematic attitudes and beliefs around race, culture, and religion.
- Policy and practice aimed at combatting Honour Based Abuse often continues to be based on a distorted lens of race, culture, or religion rather than structural gender inequality. This artificially separates Honour Based Abuse from mainstream Domestic Abuse, exacerbating misunderstandings of Honour Based Abuse linked to ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’.
- The government has adopted a siloed approach to tackling Honour Based Abuse, seeking only to address Honour Based Abuse so far as it relates to Forced Marriage and FGM. The lack of recognition of Honour Based Abuse, beyond FM and FGM, has had wider repercussions as to how Honour Based Abuse is recognised and understood nationally.
- Within existing policies and practices aimed at tackling Honour Based Abuse, there is an overfocus on FM and FGM. In working practice, this ‘masks’ cases of Honour Based Abuse and can lead to poorer statutory responses being provided to victims of Honour Based Abuse where there is no FM or FGM.
- In the UK, there is no statutory definition for Honour Based Abuse. This has multiple adverse consequences on how Honour Based Abuse is identified and how data on Honour Based Abuse is collated and recorded.
- The current working definition for Honour Based Abuse, created by NPCC, does not authentically represent the experience of victims and survivors of Honour Based Abuse, particularly the unique barriers linked to shame and stigma that many victims face.
- Until the recent inclusion of HBA on the policing Annual Data Return (ADR) in 2020, there has not been a requirement for Honour Based Abuse police data to be officially returned to the Home Office.
- Data on Honour Based Abuse is not collated, recorded, or published by any other government department except in some circumstances for cases of FM or FGM. No national dataset is available to provide the scope, scale and prevalence of Honour Based Abuse in the UK.
- There is a disconnect between the increase in reported cases of Honour Based Abuse and the actual progress being made in the criminal justice system in addressing the issue. Despite increased reporting, the lack of recognition and understanding of Honour Based Abuse has resulted in limited progress in the criminal justice system in terms of charges, prosecutions, and convictions.
- The rollout of the DARA risk assessment tool risks future cases of Honour Based Abuse being missed by frontline police officers.
- College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice (APP) on Honour Based Abuse is limited, setting a very low expectation of knowledge on Honour Based Abuse for police officers.
- There are limited specialist safe spaces available for victims and survivors of Honour Based Abuse to reach out and receive support. Specialist services for victims and survivors of Honour Based Abuse are inadequately resourced and sustained.
We have set out our recommendations under four overarching headings, responding directly to the highlighted barriers referenced within this report, that we know through our work, limit progress in tackling Honour Based Abuse.
- Introduce a statutory definition for Honour Based Abuse that is recognised and endorsed by survivors. The statutory definition should be supplemented with practice guidelines to support frontline statutory professionals responding to Honour Based Abuse.
- Stronger representation of Honour Based Abuse as a form of Domestic Abuse in all public-facing government strategies and policies responding to domestic abuse. This includes the Home Offices VAWG Strategy, Domestic Abuse Strategy and Domestic Abuse Statutory Guidance.
- As part of the government’s work on tackling VAWG, it should consider a campaign to deliver strong key messages to victims and survivors of Honour Based Abuse that ‘upholding honour’ and ‘preventing shame’ does not legitimise coercive control and abuse. This campaign should be influenced ‘by and for’ survivors of Honour Based Abuse.
- Home Office must urgently publish the findings of its consultation exploring the introduction of new mandatory duties relating to cases of Forced Marriage. This consultation closed in January 2019.
- A review of the progress in policing Honour Based Abuse since the HMICFRS thematic inspection in 2015. We call upon the Home Secretary to give due consideration to a re-inspection on Honour Based Abuse by HMICFRS.
- Development of a cross-governmental VAWG training framework for all frontline statutory professionals, to include Honour Based Abuse. This will support better identification, understanding and responses to Honour Based Abuse, in addition to increasing the number of ‘safe spaces’ for victims and survivors to speak out.
- Police Chiefs to consider how frontline police officers can be supported to identify cases of Honour Based Abuse as/when the DARA risk assessment tool is rolled out nationally. The DARA risk assessment tool excludes the screening question for Honour Based Abuse that is on the DASH risk assessment.
- We call upon the government to re-evaluate existing datasets collated on Honour Based Abuse, and to the review to what extent this data influences policy decision making and resource allocations.
- Future crime datasets on Honour Based Abuse should be included in the crime Survey that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) undertake on Domestic Abuse to enable greater accountability for how all forms of Domestic Abuse are recorded. Currently, Honour Based Abuse data is being artificially separated from ONS Domestic Abuse publications, linked to problematic connotations of Honour Based Abuse being a ‘cultural’ problem rather than a ‘Domestic Abuse’ problem.
- The Department of Education to include categories for Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage under ‘factors identified at the end of assessment’1 within the annual Child in Need and Child Protection census. This will enable the first baseline dataset capture for Honour Based Abuse from Children Social Care.
- Government should ring-fence funding for specialist services supporting victims of Honour Based Abuse, ensuring appropriate safe spaces exist for victims to seek specialist help. Equally, more safe spaces should be created through training frontline practitioners to understand the issues connected to Honour Based Abuse to ensure that victims receive appropriate support the first time and in compliance with the ‘one chance rule’.
- Central government should continue funding for the national Honour Based Abuse helpline.