So-called honour-based abuse risks remaining a hidden crime without improved victim support and law enforcement focus, the Women and Equalities Committee has warned.
In a report that has been published, the Committee found victims would continue to be reluctant to report crimes without greater assurance that they would be protected from further abuse.
The Committee calls for better training for first responders to identify signs of honour-based abuse and significant improvements to data recording to inform prevention strategies. The Committee also recommends that a firewall-type mechanism be established between the police and the Home Office to ensure that victims with insecure immigration status are not put off reporting abuse due to fears of immigration enforcement taking action against them.
They found significant variation in the understanding of honour-based abuse across statutory agencies. The Committee calls on the Government to introduce a statutory definition of honour-based abuse, similar to the definition of ‘domestic abuse’ in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
So-called honour-based abuse can take a broad variety of forms but is motivated by the perpetrator’s perceived defence of the honour of their community, family or culture. It can occur within any community and is not a mainstream practice of any specific religion or culture.
In the year ending 31st March 2022, 2,887 offences related to honour-based abuse were recorded in England and Wales, according to UK Parliament.
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP said:
“Victims of honour-based abuse take huge risks in reporting the crimes against them, often they will only have one chance to do so. It is critical that the public services in place to protect them are able to recognise that abuse at the first opportunity.
“Better training for front-line agencies in identifying honour-based abuse, whether police, schools, health or social services, is imperative. However, the circumstances of honour-based abuse are often unique to different communities. That is why it is vital that a more standardised approach to data collection is implemented in order to better understand the complexities of honour-based abuse cases and ensure that appropriate support can be made available.”
The report calls for improved guidance for police officers on how to record incidents of honour-based abuse to ensure data is accurate and consistent.
Reporting incidents of honour-based abuse can be daunting for victims, and they may feel it could lead to further abuse. The criminal justice system and other support services need to ensure that victims feel empowered to come to them and certain that they will be protected, the Committee said.
Relationship, sex and health education could also play an important role in helping children and young people understand honour-based abuse, the Committee said.
The Committee is not satisfied that the proposed Immigration Enforcement Migrant Victims Protocol goes far enough in in protecting victims. It calls on the Government to create a firewall-type mechanism that prevents the sharing of immigration data between the police and Home Office for victims of honour-based abuse.
The Committee also calls on the Government to increase funding to buy-and-for providers and commit to providing this in the long-term.