Honour-Based Abuse in the UK: What Data? What Happens?

The importance of evidence-based policy is well-recognised. Without evidence, how can people plan policies that will have the desired outcome? An essential requirement for evidence is good data. A lack of good data on Honour-Based Abuse in the UK means that policy is not currently robustly evidence-based. There is no way of knowing, therefore, if it is effectual, or what might be better.

Data is collected on Honour-Based Abuse by a number of stakeholders. For instance, police forces, children’s and adult’s social-services, housing officers, health professionals, and schools all have statutory obligations to collect some relevant data, and often collect more. However, this collection appears to be idiosynratic and to differ widely across the country and different sectors.

Evidence from the national helpline for victims of Honour Based Abuse suggests this is a significant problem in the UK. Since its foundation in 2008, the helpline at Karma Nirvana has received 100,000 calls. These are both from victims, and from other stakeholders (family, friends, teachers, social workers etc.) who are concerned about someone they think is at risk, or already experiencing Honour-Based Abuse. In 2021/2022, Karma Nirvana heard from 1,130 professionals who were supporting victims of Honour-Based Abuse.

This project, funded by a British Academy Innovation Fellowship, seeks to: 1) map key stakeholders who are, and who should be, collecting data on Honour-Based Abuse (including forced marriage); 2) identify and share best-practice; 3) identify key barriers to data-sharing faced by stakeholders; 4) co-develop ways to overcome them.

Our aim is to improve data-collection so that policy aimed at ending Honour-Based Abuse, and supporting those at risk, can be properly evidence-based. This would mean policy could be more effectively monitored and evaluated, and lessons could be learned about effective (and less effective) policies and interventions. Ultimately, we hope this would lead to an end to Honour-Based Abuse in the UK.

Come back as this project develops for more updates! If you are a stakeholder who collects data, and you’d be willing to be interviewed for this project, please get in touch! (Email: helen.mccabe@nottingham.ac.uk)

New Podcast Episode: Forced Marriage or ‘Forced Conjugal Association’?

Forced Marriage Research Podcast

In the first episode of the Forced Marriage Research Podcast, Dr. Helen McCabe and Dr. Hannah Baumeister discuss how different international courts have dealt with prosecutions of forced marriage in war; how they have understood forced marriage as a form of slavery in different ways; the implications of this for understanding forced marriage and slavery in non-conflict situations; and whether “forced marriage” as a term should be replaced with “forced conjugal association”.

Forced Marriage Research Projects Blog

Forced Marriage, International Travel, and Quarantine.

Wedding rings with surgical gloves.

As Covid-19 restrictions are eased in England, a new set of travel restrictions have come into place, including the need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel on arrival in the UK from a “red-list” country. Currently, many countries which regularly feature as “focus countries” for the forced marriage unit are on the “red list“. Quarantine costs £1,750. We are very concerned that the cost of quarantine may be a serious barrier for people being forced to marry abroad, making it harder – perhaps impossible – for them to return safely to the UK. We also think the current travel restrictions raise a number of other concerns relating to the safety of victims and survivors of forced marriage including around the need for specific tests before re-entering the UK and access to specialist services and safe accomodation on their return.

These concerns have been echoed by Karma Nirvana, in an open letter signed by twenty-two other leading campaigners and researchers on this issue. This was picked up by The Independent, and the Victims Commissioner, who said forced marriage victims “face many barriers”, and “hotel quarantine should not be one”. So far, neither the Home Office nor the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have responded.

Although cases referred to the forced marriage unit almost halved in 2020, they still dealt with 753 cases in 2020, despite travel restrictions (and understandable caution about travelling internationally, even when it was permitted). 14 people needed assistance with repatriation from the forced marriage unit in 2020. These numbers are, of course, a lot smaller than the total number of cases, for instance, of Covid-19 experienced in the UK last year, but they are still higher than they should be, as that should be zero. Forced marriage is against the law in the UK and in many other countries, and recognised internationally as a human rights abuse.

We will continue to monitor the response from the government, and changes to travel restrictions.