‘Honour’ Killings in the UK

Emily Dyer

While ‘honour’-based violence (HBV) has become a high profile issue in recent years, a new report by the Henry Jackson Society explores how the government is continuing to let down thousands of victims. ‘Honour’ Killings in the UK finds that on-the-ground efforts by campaigners are not being matched by the government, which needs to take the lead, not only in dealing with cases effectively, but in preventing them from occurring in the first place.

The report will be launched today as part of Karma Nirvana and Cosmopolitan’s ‘Britain’s Lost Women’ campaign, which has successfully fought for the UK’s first ever day of memory to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives to this brutal phenomenon.

‘Honour’ Killings in the UK uses first-hand interviews and original data analysis to address why ‘honour’ killings remain a widespread problem in this country. Having documented all reported UK ‘honour’ killings and attempted killings in the last five years, this report helps give a clearer picture of the nature and scale of the problem that exists in Britain today.

Its key findings include the following:

Scale and nature of the problem

  • The exact number of ‘honour’ killings each year in the UK is unknown. According to HJS’ database of killings or attempted killings, 29 cases have been reported in the media to have taken place within the UK in the last five years, though the numbers are likely to be much higher;
  • The majority of victims of ‘honour’ killings and HBV are girls and women but men are also targeted, often by the families of a current or ex-partner;
  • Young people are most at risk of HBV. Where the ages of the victims of reported ‘honour’ killings are known, just less than half were 25 or under;
  • HBV and ‘honour’ killings take place across a range of communities of different ethnic origins. Of the 22 out of 29 reported cases of killings and attempted killings from 2010 where the ethnicity of the victims is known or alleged, 15 were of Pakistani origin, three of Indian, one of Bangladeshi, one of Palestinian/Syrian, one of Kuwaiti and, one of white British;
  • HBV is not associated with a particular religion or religious practice, and has been recorded across Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities. However, in the UK, the communities deemed by women’s rights activists to be most at risk are those with links to South Asia;
  • Victims are often killed having been taken abroad to their family’s place of origin. Perpetrators appear to do so due to a lower risk of being caught. While there are no reliable figures on the total number of female British residents and/or citizens who have been killed abroad in the name of honour, over a third (11 of the 29) of reported cases of killings/attempted killings in the past five years were committed abroad – all of which took place in Pakistan.


Risks posed to victims seeking help and challenges in raising awareness

  • Relatives often actively attempt to find family members who have run away. Victims are also betrayed by members of their community and agencies seeking to mediate without a full understanding of the risks;
  • There is a risk from professionals involved in various lines of victim-support. Some women fleeing HBV or forced marriages have come into contact with professionals such as social workers, police officers, or councillors from the same community who possess similar, if not the same, views to that of the victims’ families;
  • There is currently a severe lack of awareness and willingness to cooperate among schools. This prevents teachers from: firstly, being able to help prevent HBV through education; but also to identify and protect victims of HBV. Women’s groups have also been disappointed by the lack of commitment from the current Education Secretary and the Department for Education on this issue;
  • Despite recent improvements, police forces continue to inadequately identify, record, and report ‘honour’-based crimes, a prominent barrier to the protection of HBV victims;
  • Women’s support groups for victims of forced marriage and HBV currently provide a unique service within the UK. Yet, despite filling the gap in public services, they do not receive adequate long-term financial support from the government;
  • The report will be launched in Parliament at 1pm today at an HJS event co-hosted with Karma Nirvana and Cosmopolitan as part of the ‘Britain’s Lost Women’ campaign to honour the memory of victims in the UK. The report’s author and HJS Research Fellow Emily Dyer, Founder and CEO of Karma Nirvana, Jasvinder Sanghera, and Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, Louise Court will discuss the report’s findings and announce the UK’s first ever day of memory for the victims of ‘honour’ killings (14th July, which is honour-killing victim Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday).


Research Fellow and author of the report Emily Dyer commented:

“We are now seeing the consequences of a repeated refusal by the authorities to confront this problem. Until the government starts taking HBV seriously with real, immediate action, the rights and hopes of British girls and women will continue to be denied. This change needs to be centred around raising awareness among professionals that regularly come into contact with potential victims and perpetrators, from schools to the police. Furthermore, women’s groups currently filling this large gap in victim support need long-term engagement and commitment from the government.”


‘Honour’ Killings in the UK is available to download here


Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here