Violence in the name of honour, also called honour violence or honour crime, is a type of violence employed to safeguard or regain/repair perceived family honour. Different expressions of this kind of violence range from emotional blackmailing and psychological pressure to physical and sexual violence. Forced marriages and so-called “honour killings“ also belong in this category.
Honour or family honour has different meanings in different cultures and countries. In strongly patriarchal societies, it is based on the “correct” conduct of the female family members who are regarded as men’s property. If a female relative acts against the ruling norms and if this becomes known to outsiders, then the entire family’s honour is damaged if not destroyed and with it their social standing.
At the root of this lies the intention to control female sexuality. Sex is only tolerated within marriage. In some cases it is enough for a rumour or suspicion to spread of a girl being seen with an unknown boy or man to damage the family honour. Rape can also lead to the loss of family honour.
It is the men’s task to guard the family honour and to control the female family members’ conduct accordingly. Should they fail in this, the only option to regain the family’s honour is to kill the girl or woman responsible for the loss of honour (killing in the name of honour = “honour”-killing).
In several known cases of honour violence the perpetrators have justified their actions with their religious beliefs. In many religions and beliefs, sexuality is only allowed within marriage. Extra-marital sex can damage the family honour, which the men will try to mend using violence. But: Violence is always an abuse of human rights and can never be legitimised!
Honour violence does exist in Europe. It most often affects girls and women from families with migrant backgrounds. On one hand, they are under a lot of pressure to conform to the patriarchal gender roles in their families. On the other hand, they want to live emancipated and independent lives.
The survey by the “National Centre for Social Research” (published in July 2009), assumes that there were about 8000 victims of forced marriage in the UK in 2008. The first nationwide survey regarding forced marriage in Germany was published on behalf of the Ministry for family, seniors, women and youth in November 2011. Nationwide, 1445 helpdesks were interviewed on their experiences with cases of forced marriage. 830 of them replied and stated that there were all in all 3,443 cases of forced marriage in 2008 alone – 93% of them concerning women or girls.
Over the last three years, TERRE DES FEMMES has provided counselling and support to over 650 women and girls affected or threatened by forced marriage or honour violence. In every fifth case, a family relative issued death threats.
TERRE DES FEMMES additionally networks with the project Girls Not Brides. Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 200 civil society organisations from over 50 countries that strike for the end of child marriage. About 14 million underage girls are exposed to forced marriage yearly, suffering from the deprivation of their childhood, innocence, security, health and education.
TERRE DES FEMMES was able to interview the primarily responsible coordinator of Girls Not Brides, Lakshmi Sundaram, about lost childhood and child marriages. Read the interview now...