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Safeguarding: Honour Based Abuse

So-called 'Honour Based Abuse'

So-called ‘honour-based’ abuse is abuse and encompasses crimes which have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community, including:

  • Forced marriage (FM)
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Other practices such as breast ironing.

Due to their own cultural upbringing and beliefs, perpetrators of HBV (often family members) may not recognise these situations as abusive and believe that they are doing what is ‘right’ or ‘best’ for their child; for example, they may believe it is essential for a girl to undergo FGM to get married or that ‘breast flattening’ will protect them from unwanted sexual advances.

Regardless of the motivation, it is still abuse and our responsibility as childcare professionals is to put the welfare and protection of the child first. Do not let personal relationships, assumptions or cultural beliefs prevent you from acting. If you have concerns for a child or young person and you would like to discuss them, you can contact the Education Safeguarding Service for support and advice.

Forced Marriage

Forced marriage is: a marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties, and where violence, threats or other forms of coercion is used.

  • Threats can be emotional, psychological and financial
  • Lack of consent can be where someone lacks the mental capacity to consent (e.g. if they have learning difficulties)
  • Taking someone overseas to force them to marry is also an offence (whether the marriage takes place or not).

Designated Safeguarding Leads should consider their responsibility as a professional to safeguard the wider community and be aware of vulnerable older siblings and parents who may be at risk or may have been brought into the country as a result of FM.

For more information and support:

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of child abuse with long-lasting, harmful consequences; it comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is illegal in the UK. 

A girl may be at increased risk of FGM if:

  • One or both of her parents come from a community affected by FGM
  • She is born to a woman, or has an older sibling, who has undergone FGM
  • Her family members consider FGM integral to their cultural identity
  • There is a strong influence from elders in the upbringing of female children
  • Her family has limited level of integration within UK community.

Signs that a girl could be at immediate risk of FGM include:

  • References to FGM in conversation with other children
  • Confiding that she is to have a 'special procedure' or to attend a special occasion to 'become a woman'
  • Requesting help from an adult because she is aware or suspects that she is at immediate risk
  • Travel plans abroad to a country with high prevalence of FGM
  • Female family elders visiting from a country of origin, or taking a more active/influential role in the family.

A girl may have already been subjected to FGM if she:

  • Has a sudden, noticeable change in behaviour
  • Needs frequent and prolonged toilet breaks
  • Hsa difficulty in sitting down comfortably
  • Complains about pains between their legs
  • Returns from an extended holiday, but won't tell you about it
  • Tells you about something they are not allowed to talk about.

Section 5B of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 places a statutory duty upon teachers to report to the police if they discover that FGM appears to have been carried out on a girl under 18; failing to report such cases will face disciplinary sanctions.

Members of staff in school/college should not examine children for signs of FGM.

If you believe that a child may have suffered FGM, follow your usual safeguarding procedures and notify the Police and Children’s Social Care as soon as possible.