Honour Based Violence And Its Presence Within LGBT+ Communities
This article on honour based violence was written by Anne East. Anne writes for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation which offers free legal advice and support for asylum seekers, domestic abuse victims, and trafficking victims in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Yet despite more than 2,000 reported cases each year, the number of convictions remains stubbornly low with a peak of just 129 in the year 2014-2015. Since then, convictions have fallen to a dismal 41 in 2018-2019.
The majority of victims are women but nearly a quarter (24%) are men. In cases of all genders, being a member of the LGBT+ community can add a further layer of risk, particularly for young adult and teenage victims.
What Is ‘Honour’ Based Violence?
Perhaps tellingly, there is no official government definition of Honour Based Violence. Broadly speaking, it describes violence or abuse targeted at someone considered to have brought shame on their family or community.
HBV can take many forms, including: forced marriage, forced suicide, mutilation (including acid attacks), beatings, and sexual violence. But this form of abuse isn’t always physical. Perpetrators of HBV also use blackmail, emotional manipulation, surveillance, persecution and threats to bully victims.
While there have been several high-profile cases affecting South Asian communities, HBV is not a crime bound by ethnicity, race or religion. In fact, research shows HBV takes place in African, American, Australian, Middle Eastern and European communities and across numerous faiths including, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.
Where Patriarchy Rules
Despite its cultural and religious diversity, HBV is often found in patriarchal communities with clear gender lines. For women and girls this means they must live up to ‘honourable’ standards of purity and submission. For men and boys, this often means conforming to entrenched stereotypes of what it means to ‘be a man’ such as being stoic or dominant.
Because of these expectations, LGBT+ individuals are especially susceptible to this form of abuse, as they are perceived as not conforming to traditionalist structures. Many gay, bi and lesbian victims are targeted because they either express their sexuality in some way, or refuse to enter into a heterosexual relationship or marriage. Though there is limited research into the experiences of transgender HBV victims, it is assumed that trans individuals are targeted because they are seen to refuse to conform to patriarchal gender-ideals.
In the UK, forced marriage chiefly affects migrant populations and is often a consequence of strict, traditional communities where ‘honour’ must be observed. Where individuals have come to the UK on a Partner Visa, do not yet qualify for British citizenship or have no access to public funds, they are even more vulnerable to abuse as they are cut off from protective authorities.
According to the Forced Marriages Unit (FMU) there were more than 1,000 cases of forced marriage in the UK 2017-18. And although the majority of forced marriage victims were women, 20% were men. Where sexual orientation was voluntarily recorded, 2% of victims identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
But these figures give us just a glimpse of the picture. The FMU highlights that the majority (80%) of calls they receive about forced marriage are from other organisations or third parties. The fact that self-reported incidents are relatively low demonstrates the fact that this issue is occurring behind closed doors in communities across the country, and also that victims are afraid of speaking out and seeking help.
Barriers To Disclosure
Like most forms of domestic abuse, HBV can be hard to record and difficult to accurately measure. But HBV is also unique in that it doesn’t just hide behind closed doors, it hides behind entire sections of communities and victims can face persecution by numerous family or community members.
While victims of domestic abuse and HBV will share similar experiences, LGBT+ victims are often further disadvantaged because of their sexuality and/or gender identity. Not only is their fundamental sense of self at odds with what is deemed ‘honourable’ behaviour, they may also experience specific issues; for example: threats to out them, lack of family support and a constant undermining of their sexuality and individuality.
A small study by the Honour Abuse Research Matrix (HARM) shows how these reasons for non-disclosure are keenly felt by many gay men specifically in South Asian communities. Participants were recorded as saying: “South Asian people don’t accept LGBT people” and that there was a definite “fear of family”.
The study went on to reveal there was a perception of lack a of resources to help (specifically) South Asian LGBT people who experienced HBV. Some participants also said those affected were reluctant to come forward because the idea that the police were institutionally racist still persists.
This Home Office’s hostile environment policy has meant that that many have stayed silent, and still continue to do so. This is based on a fear that they may risk their immigration status, or that they will be treated with hostility if they do come forward. This is sadly not an unfounded fear; the policy has led to various cases of racial profiling, data breaches and scandals (including Windrush).
Figures show that on average, those at risk of HBV wait five years before seeking support – two years longer than victims of other types of domestic abuse.
There is no honour in any form of domestic abuse yet the term ‘honour based violence’ suggests a justification for the crimes committed. It implies abusers are acting out of a sense of duty – to protect traditional family or community values. Despite the terms associated with it, there is never honour in abuse.
What To Do If You Are Experiencing Honour Based Violence
If you are experiencing HBV or any other form of domestic abuse or think someone you know is affected, help is available no matter what perpetrators may say. In an emergency, always dial 999.
For support and advice, the following charities and organisations are here to help:
- National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline: Tel – 0800 999 5428 / Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- London LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership: Tel – 0807 704 2040 / Email email@example.com
- Men’s Advice Line: Tel – 0808 801 0327 / Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Halo: Tel – 01642 683 045 / Email email@example.com
- Jeena International: Tel – 07153 553614 or 07958 603 541
- Karma Nirvana – 0800 5999 247 / Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Refuge (for women and girls) – T 0808 2000 247
About Gina Battye
Gina Battye is a world-renowned LGBT+ Inclusion, Psychological Safety and Intersectionality Consultant and Trainer for Multinational Corporations, Fortune 500s, TV, Film and the Global Press.
As featured in: Sky News, BBC Radio, Forbes, Psychologies, Cosmopolitan.
To find out more about working with Gina on LGBT inclusion in your organisation, click here: https://www.ginabattye.com/lgbt-services
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