'Call It What You Like, But...This Is Different': Exploring How Domestic Abuse Practitioners Understand and Address 'Honour'-Based Violence

  • Rebecca Kaur

Student thesis: Phd


Primarily understood as a manifestation of violence against women and girls (VAWG), 'honour'-based violence (HBV) is the collective term for abuse that is perpetrated against victims because they are believed to have done something to bring shame upon their family or community. With antecedents in the forced marriage policy debates of the late-1990s, HBV has been a policy concern in Britain for almost two decades. Although now recognised as a 'topical and persistent issue' (Eshareturi et al., 2014: 369), discourse on HBV is characterised by a paucity of local and national-level data, little empirical research on the subject, and confusion around its conceptual framework. Compounding this are media and policy responses, which have consistently viewed HBV as something intrinsic to South Asian and Middle-Eastern Muslim communities. Failing to acknowledge that VAWG is a universal affliction, this 'lens of cultural essentialism' (Gill, 2014a: 1) creates racial tensions and anxieties by positioning HBV as the preserve of the 'other'. Whilst it is clear that all these issues present potential problems for service provision, very few studies have examined empirically what this means for practice. In seeking to strengthen knowledge in this area, the current research is an exploratory study into how professionals working in roles connected with domestic violence and abuse describe, explain, and respond to HBV. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 21 participants (11 third-sector employees, eight representatives from local authorities, one family lawyer and one former police officer), this research moves existing discussion beyond the conceptual realm to illuminate the everyday challenges and complexities that come with working in an area defined by contention and uncertainty. This thesis makes a number of recommendations for theory, policy and practice. It calls for more dynamic interpretations of HBV, which move beyond the patriarchy/culture discourses omnipresent in current literature to recognise how honour intersects with ideas of power and hierarchy. In terms of policy, the thesis argues that HBV cannot be effectively addressed within a framework of domestic violence and abuse. To this end, the thesis suggests that HBV needs to be reconceptualised as an overlapping, though separate, form of abuse. This way, the specific characteristics that make HBV complex, such as collective perpetration, can be made clear, instead of being obscured by a framework that is, in practice, designed to address abuse within the dyad. To help counter the harmful racialised stereotypes of HBV, this thesis recommends regular, rigorous and mandatory training for practitioners, particularly those working on the frontline. The thesis also advocates for a more holistic response to HBV, a key part of which involves working with families and communities to challenge not only the offending behaviour, but the norms and ideals that uphold and reproduce this.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJuanjo Medina (Supervisor), Caroline Miles (Supervisor) & Claire Fox (Supervisor)


  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Honour-based abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Honour-based violence
  • Domestic abuse

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