Honour-based violence or abuse (HBV/A) can be characterised as practices used to control the behaviour of individuals to protect supposed cultural and religious beliefs, values and social norms in the name of ‘honour’. In addition
to forced marriage (FM) numerous offences can be committed in the context of HBV/A including; assault, harassment, kidnap, rape and threats. Honour crimes have risen by 40% in London over the past 5 years, whilst forced marriages have doubled in the capital
over the same period (Halo Project, 2017). Nationwide, there are approximately 12-15 honour based killings every year, whilst the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) recorded 1428 victims in 2016, up from 1220 in 2015. As the HMICs 2015 report
The Depths of Dishonour testifies, Police forces have struggled to identify and record instances of HBV/A and appropriately manage and prosecute perpetrators. Indeed, only 3 of 43 forces were recognised as fully prepared for protecting the public from
honour based harm.
In response, the Government, police and criminal justice authorities have formulated guidance and measures aiming to improve responses to FM & HBV/A and safeguard potential victims. In December last year the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) launched the HBV/A and FM Action Protocol outlining plans to increase the awareness and expertise of prosecutors. Keeping Children Safe in Education Guidance was also updated (Sept, 2016) to provide teachers with further information on HBV and ensure staff are equipped to spot the signs of such crimes, whilst amendments to the Police and Crime Bill have granted life time anonymity to victims of forced marriage.
However, significant progress is still required to ensure effective first responses to HBV/A and address gaps in law enforcement. Less than half of teachers have been given training to recognise the indicators of forced marriage (ATL, 2017). Furthermore, despite the FMU providing advice and support on more cases than ever before, conviction rates have remained persistently low, with victims of FM often reticent to criminalise family members.
In view of these challenges, this symposium will offer local authorities, police forces, criminal justice bodies, health professionals, schools, colleges and third sector organisations with a timely and invaluable opportunity to collectively strengthen our understanding and response to Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence. It will also provide all stakeholders with a chance to develop strategies for improving the identification and prosecution of these crimes.