Honour-based violence

Violence and oppression exerted in the name of honour is characterised by this collective term. This type of violence has the support of family members or an extended collective, and the most serious acts of violence are usually well planned and often involve several perpetrators. In the context of honour thinking, a man’s honour is felt to depend on factors such as his ability to provide and protect, and his ability to control his family, while a woman’s honour depends on factors such as living a sexually pure life. The woman’s behaviour, including her sexual purity, is also a source of honour for the man, the family, and the extended collective. Honour thinking occurs in many cultures and religions.

Girls and young women in families who practice honour thinking have less freedom and fewer rights than the boys and young men have. For example, girls and young women are not allowed to decide over their appearance, their free time, or who they can hang out with. Some girls and young women are not allowed to participate in gym classes, go on school field trips, or attend class parties. Boys and young men may be pressured and forced to control their sisters and female relatives. Boys and young men may also be subjected to violence if they refuse to control their sister or refuse to marry the person their parents want them to.

The UN defines honour-based violence and oppression as part of a traditional family ideology that determines women’s sexuality and family role. Identities and actions that break the norms of the ideology can lead to tough sanctions and even lethal violence. Such actions can include infidelity, having sex before marriage, hanging out with the “wrong” people, or even being raped. Suspicion of such acts may be all that it takes.

The Swedish Government defines honour-based violence and oppression as being rooted in cultural beliefs about gender, power and sexuality – just like male violence against women in general. Perceptions of the virginity and chastity of women and girls are in focus, and the family’s reputation and standing are dependent on the actual and perceived behaviours of the women and girls. The control exerted can be anything from limitations in daily life to threats, violence and even lethal violence. Forced marriage and female genital mutilation are also expressions of honour-based violence and oppression. Men and boys can also be victims of honour-based violence, as can bisexuals, homosexuals and individuals with transgender identity and expression.

The boundaries between being a victim and being a perpetrator may be unclear. For example, individuals involved in the oppression may be victims themselves, such as mothers and young men who feel pressured or even forced to put the family’s rights ahead of the individual’s.
If you need help or want to talk about your situation, you can contact Social Services in your municipality or a women’s shelter. If you are young, you can talk to an organisation such as BRIS, RFSL or a teen girl hotline/young women’s empowerment centre. Read more about your rights and where you can turn on the website Your rights.