Domestic abuse can happen in any culture or community. Cultural difference can however have an impact on the types of abusive behaviour which are committed. Sometimes abusive behaviour is justified by cultural or religious values. There are no legitimate reasons for abusive behaviour. Below are some examples of commonly practised “culturally justified” forms of violence that women and girls frequently experience.
Honour Based Violence
Honour based violence (HBV) is a form of domestic abuse which is often enforced within a family or community. Women are commonly targeted by honour- based violence for breaking social conventions. This could include being in a relationship that is not approved of, rejecting a forced marriage, becoming pregnant outside of marriage, or wearing clothes the family do not approve of. Men can also experience honour -based violence particularly if they identify as gay or transgender however, it is more common for women to experience HBV and for the violence to be more severe. Honour based violence is against the law in the U.K. There are no justifications for acts of violence or abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing HBV please feel free to contact our confidential advice line on 020 8317 8273 or for more specialist services click here.
Forced marriage involves individuals pressuring or intimidating a person into a marriage they have not consented to. Sometimes these marriages are arranged overseas by family members in secret. In the UK you cannot be forced into marriage, It is against the law even if the marriage takes place overseas.
It is not acceptable for anyone to use physical violence, emotional pressure or any other means of intimidation to make you marry someone without your free and full consent. You should be free to choose who you spend your life with. If you feel under pressure to marry somebody you do not want to, you can call our confidential phone line on 020 8317 8273. You can also click here to find specialist services that will be able to support you
Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision as it sometimes called, is a forced procedure where genitals are cut. Often the purpose is to damage or remove the labia and/or clitoris. This practice is believed in some communities to safeguard chastity and fidelity. However, it is widely recognised as an act of abuse, designed to restrict women’s sexuality and cause them significant physical and emotional trauma. FGM can lead to a wide range of medical complications which in some cases, can be life- threatening. FGM also causes devastating emotional distress which can lead to the development of ongoing mental health concerns.
In the UK it is against the law to perform FGM or assist a girl to carry it out on herself. It is also against the law to arrange for FGM to be carried out on a girl overseas.
If you feel you or someone you know is at risk of FGM or you have experienced it and are looking for some support, you can call our confidential referral line on 020 8317 8273. You can also click here to find more specific services that will be able to help you.
Breast ironing, sometimes called breast flattening, involves beating of young girls developing breasts in order to stunt, reverse or prevent their development. It is common for the painful procedure which can take weeks or months to be completed, to be performed using hot instruments such as spatulas, hammers or stones. Breast ironing has primarily been documented within African communities and is particularly prevalent in eastern Nigeria and Cameroon, although it occurs in many other communities as well. Breast ironing is carried out because it is believed that the development of breasts may invite sexually predatory behaviour from men.
The reality is that the only person responsible for an act of sexual violence is the perpetrator. The widely held belief that women must shoulder some responsibility is incredibly damaging and wrong. Young girl’s bodies should be allowed to develop naturally. Any intervention of this kind is an act of abuse. If you or someone you know has experienced or is at risk of experiencing this procedure please feel free to contact our advice line on 020 8317 8273. You can also click here to find for more specialist support services.
Forced Marriage / Honour Network Helpline
Runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days per year.
Helpline: 0800 5999 247
Southall Black Sisters
Southall Black Sisters provides information, advice, advocacy, practical help, counselling and support to women and children experiencing domestic and other forms of gender-related violence.
Helpline: 0208 571 0800