Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

Roles and responsibilities of police

Last edited: February 26, 2011

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Laws should state that the primary duties of police are to protect victims and potential victims and promote offender accountability by consistently enforcing laws and procedures so that all “honour” crimes and killings are investigated and addressed by the criminal justice system. To give effect to this goal, laws should authorize police, by judicial authorization where appropriate, to enter premises, conduct arrest of the primary aggressor(s), and confiscate weapons or dangerous substances in cases involving “honour”. Laws should charge police to work in coordination on the response to “honour”-based violence with advocates, health care providers, criminal justice actors, including prosecutors, child protection services, local businesses, the media, employers, religious leaders, health care providers, clergy and organizations working with victims and immigrant communities. (See: Coordinated Community Response, Stop VAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)  In countries where “honour” crimes tend to be more prevalent in certain immigrant communities, law enforcement should collaborate with community leaders and women’s organizations in those communities to formulate an effective response to “honour” crimes. 

Example: An example of intersectoral collaboration to assist domestic violence victims involves the municipality, police and NGOs in Bulgaria. In Sofia, these three bodies provide a consultation center. The purpose is to provide multiple resources for victims in one independent location. Interviewers reported that victims of domestic violence are using the center to seek help where a police officer, lawyer and social worker are available to meet with victims of domestic violence. (See: Implementation of the Bulgarian Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, The Advocates for Human Rights and The Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), 2008, p. 47 (citations omitted).

Drafters should require the appropriate ministerial branch or department to consult with police, prosecutors, judges, and health and education professionals to develop regulations, guidelines and other protocols for implementation of laws on “honour” crimes within a specified timeframe of the laws’ entry into force. (See: UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, Section 3.2.6) The promulgating body should consult and work closely with non-governmental organizations and victims’ advocates. These policies should provide for a collaborative, coordinated response among the various relevant sectors.  For example, in the Netherlands, police, prosecutors, and a women’s shelter have developed a joint protocol for combating “honour” crimes.  (See: Combating Honour Crimes in Europe: Manual for Policy Makers, Institutions, and Civil Society, SURGIR Foundation, 2011-2012, p.25) Overall, these policies should seek to mainstream the police response, so that all law enforcement uses the same trainings, educational materials and risk assessment model. Laws should require police protocols, regulations and guidelines to 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)

CASE STUDY: The UK Metropolitan Police uses the following definition for honour-based violence: “a crime or incident that has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.” The definition includes an explanation that states:

There is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap, and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up ‘violence in the name of socalled ‘honour’.

The simplicity of the above definition is not intended in any way to minimize the levels of violence, harm and hurt caused by the perpetration of such acts.

It is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour.

Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code.

Women are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims of ‘so-called honour based violence’, which is used to assert male power in order to control female autonomy and sexuality.

‘So-called Honour Based Violence’ can be distinguished from other forms of violence, as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and / or community members.

(See: CPS Pilot on Forced Marriage and So-called ‘Honour’ Crime – Findings, Crown Prosecution Service, Annex B, 2008)

  • 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 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.
  • Define 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 and, if resources permit, police units solely dedicated to “honour” crimes should be established. Policies should also ensure that all police undergo appropriate trainings on violence against women and girls.
  • Policies should seek to increase the presence of women in the police forces, including operational rank, and provide victims of or at-risk of “honour”-based violence the option of speaking with a female officer. In some communities, victims may be reluctant to report “honour” crimes to male police officers. (See: A Long Way to Go: Implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women Law in Afghanistan, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and OHCHR, November 2011, p. 20)  Drafters should consider providing for the establishment of all-female police units that specialize in violence against women, including “honour” crimes.
  • 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”-based violence, 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 applied in other cases. Trainings should seek to improve police response at identifying, investigating and prosecuting cases involving “honour” and should educate police about laws applicable to “honour” crimes. (See: Improving Law Enforcement Investigation Techniques Training, Stop VAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)
  • Targeted outreach to communities with an elevated risk of “honour” crimes and killings.
Pakistan’s Criminal Law Bill (2004) states that no police officer below the grade of superintendent may investigate “honour” crimes.
The Netherlands uses special experts and officers on immigrant and ethnic issues to answer community members’ questions, discuss with them best strategies for handling certain issues, and advise their colleagues. These officers are knowledgeable about the immigrant community’s language, culture, and have developed a network of contacts. (See: Honour Related Violence: European Resource Book and Good Practice, Kvinnoforum, 2005, p. 132)
  • Development of a police response to “honour” crimes and killings that involves a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and coordinated response. Guidelines should state that the overall objective of effective police response is to promote the safety of the victim or person at-risk, accomplish the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrator, and prevent repetition of the crime. Police response should be guided by the need to incorporate the needs of “honour” crime victims, respect their dignity and personal integrity, minimize intrusion into their lives, and maintain high standards for collection of evidence. Law enforcement should contextualize their response to “honour” crimes and killinsg, and the police response should include:
    • Responding in a language understood by the complainant/survivor;
    • Conducting a coordinated risk assessment of the scene;
    • Interviewing parties, witnesses, including children, separately;
    • Using an authorized interpreter and not rely on family members, neighbors, friends or community members to act as an interpreter;
    • Recording the complaint in detail and filing an official report;
    • Informing the victim of her rights;
    • Ensuring transport for the victim to obtain medical treatment if needed or requested;
    • Providing protection to the person who reported the violence;
    • Avoiding serving as a mediator between the victim and the offenders.

(See: UN Handbook, Section 3.8.1; Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Measures to Eliminate Violence against Women, U.N. Doc. A/Res/52/86, 1998; Text of the revised Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Report of the Intergovernmental Expert Group Meeting to review and update the Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Bangkok, 23 - 25 March 2009, Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, 2010) 

  • Laws should 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, including the following: “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 should develop procedures for identifying “honour” crimes and performing risk assessments in cases of threatened “honour”-related violence and should provide officers with regular training on such procedures.  Police protocols also should mandate the investigation of all reported “honour” crimes or threats of such crimes.
  • Law enforcement authorities should also review witness and victim protection policies to ensure they are appropriately protecting victims in “honour” cases. Given the often communal nature of “honour” crimes, information about such crimes is often widely known within the community.  Witness reports of threatened or committed “honour” crimes can be useful in preventing or prosecuting these crimes.  Legislation therefore should include measures aimed at encouraging witnesses or those who have reasonable grounds to believe that an “honour” crime may be committed to report such information to the authorities. (See: Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, Art. 27) Laws should also recognize the risk of reprisals against those who report “honour” crimes, both victims and witnesses, and should provide for a long-term witness/victim protection program for those individuals.  Further, relocation to another region or even another country is sometimes the only option available to a woman threatened with “honour”-based violence, and laws should provide resources and support to facilitate such relocation.  (See: Combating Honour Crimes in Europe: Manual for Policy Makers, Institutions, and Civil Society, SURGIR Foundation, 2011-2012, pp. 9 & 30)
  • Laws should 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. However, law enforcement protocols should require police to provide victims with information about how and where to obtain assistance if desired (including victim counseling, legal aid, and safe houses).

(See: Association of Chief Police Officer of England, Wales & Northern Ireland Honour Based Violence Strategy)

Example: The Duluth Police Pocket Card is a laminated card that police carry and use to document domestic violence incidents. Policymakers may wish to refer to this card as a template for a pocket card for developing a similar document for “honour” crimes. The card instructs the police on what to document, what risk assessment questions to ask, what to inform the victim about services and what to expect, how to determine the predominant aggressor, and basics on the applicable law. See: Duluth Police Pocket Card, StopVAW.
  • Drafters must ensure that laws and guidelines that govern police conduct are in place. In some cases, police misconduct or obstruction of justice may impede effective investigations of “honour” crimes and killings. 


Example: In 2011 Pakistan’s parliament increased the penalties for acid attacks. The Penal Code not only punishes disabling, but also disfiguring and defacing (Section 332). It also adds Sections 336A and 336B on “Hurt Caused by Corrosive Substance” and “Punishment for Hurt Caused by Corrosive Substance.” However, the increased penalties have not been applied in practice, as perpetrators continue to bribe law enforcement officers to avoid prosecution. (See: Pakistan: Acid Attacks Common Even After New Law, Stop VAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)


  • The UN's Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials proscribes corruption and states that it includes the “commission or omission of an act in the performance of or in connection with one's duties, in response to gifts, promises or incentives demanded or accepted, or the wrongful receipt of these once the act has been committed or omitted” (Art. 7, Commentary (b)). It is important that police undergo trainings on “honour” crimes and domestic violence to dispel misperceptions they may hold. Such trainings should underscore the seriousness of such crimes and should inform law enforcement of the need to promptly and thoroughly investigate reports of such crimes or threatened crimes. The drafters should work closely with civil society to ensure effective civilian and independent oversight of the police and to ensure the availability of procedures for complaints about police misconduct to an independent investigatory body.
Example: The Women’s Justice Center in California, U.S.A., has developed an evaluation form for victims to evaluate police response. Advocates, law enforcement and other bodies may wish to adapt this form to track and evaluate police response.