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Honour Crimes

Last edited: December 30, 2011

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Legislation related to Honour Crimes should:

  • state that the primary duties of police are to protect the victim and promote offender accountability by consistently enforcing laws and procedures so that all “honour” crimes and killings are addressed by the criminal justice system.

  • require police protocols, regulations and guidelines include the following minimum elements:

    • A common definition of “honour” crimes and killings that comports with a national definition. Where there is no national definition, policies may define “honour” crimes and killings as “any form of violence against women and girls, in the name of traditional codes of so-called honour.” (See: Section on Defining “Honour” Crimes and “Honour” Killings)

    • The establishment of a data collection, monitoring and information sharing system on violence against women, including “honour” crimes and killings. The system should include specific categories for “honour” crimes and killings, as well as a mechanism for local police authorities to report “honour”-based violence statistics to a national umbrella authority. Information sharing systems should also provide information on issued protection and restraining orders so that police can determine whether such an order is in force.

    • Definition of the structural handling of cases involving “honour”, ensuring that responsibility for “honour” crimes and killings lies at the senior rank. Policies should develop specialized expertise within police units, yet ensuring that all police will undergo appropriate trainings on violence against women and girls.

    • Facilitation of cross-communications among police units in different areas, particularly with regard to receiving victims who are transferred.

    • Trainings for police that provide information on women’s human rights, violence against women, cultural sensitivities, and “honour” crimes, including its prevalence, defining characteristics, risk factors, and consequences. Trainings should seek to dispel harmful stereotypes about women and girls and emphasize that police are obligated to respond to cases involving “honour” with the same professionalism and effectiveness as with other cases. Trainings should seek to improve police response at identifying, investigating and prosecuting cases involving “honour” (See: Improving Law Enforcement Investigation Techniques Training, StopVAW).

    • Targeted outreach to communities with a high risk of “honour” crimes and killings.

    • Development of a police response to “honour” crimes that involves a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and coordinated response.

  • direct law enforcement authorities to review relevant policies to ensure their effective application to cases involving “honour”. Police authorities should review domestic violence policies to ensure they take into account the particular issues associated with “honour” crimes: “honour”-based violence often targets women and girls; it may particularly involve immigrant or ethnic populations; it often involves multiple perpetrators within or outside of the family, and; it involves more subtle, coercive indicators, such as restrictions on freedom of movement, association and communications, that may not be reflected in a domestic violence law that focuses on physical harm. Law enforcement authorities should also review witness and victim protection policies to ensure they are appropriately protecting victims in “honour” cases.

  • prohibit police from requiring victims to submit to a virginity test and from transferring a victim to a detention facility for protection. Police should only transfer a victim to a shelter with her consent, and should advise but never force the victim into a decision (See: Association of Chief Police Officer of England, Wales & Northern Ireland Honour-Based Violence Strategy).

Example: Bangladesh’s Acid-Offences Prevention Act of 2002, relating to honour crimes, specifies that police must “complete the investigation within thirty days from the date the information relating the offence [was] received or the Magistrate orders for investigation” or ask for a special extension (Art. 11).

(Excerpted from and see the Roles and responsibilities of police in responding to Honour Crimes sub-section of the Legislation module for details on illustrative examples and promising practices).