Harmful practices are forms of violence which have been committed primarily against women and girls in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted cultural practice.

They are also often committed as a result of family members who mistakenly believe someone has brought shame to their family or community that isn’t in keeping with their traditional beliefs of their culture.

The most common forms of harmful practices are:

Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM)

Forced or early marriage

  • can be defined as ‘a marriage in which one or both spouses do not  (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved’. Find out more about Forced or early marriage here.

So-called ‘honour’-based violence

Victims of forced marriage and “honour” based violence often experience abuse within the relationship.  Rape, physical, emotional and psychological violence, forced pregnancy and restrictions on freedom of dress, behaviour and lifestyle are common.  Some women are virtually under house arrest, and may only be allowed out if accompanied by family members.

The law and harmful practices

Acts carried out in the name of honour such as violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are illegal in the UK. There is a maximum seven year sentence on indictment for forced marriages, and a maximum sentence of five years for breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO).

Anybody found guilty of an offence under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 will be liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment or a fine or both. Find out more about Female Genital Mutilation.

Where can I get help or further information?

If you are a victim of harmful practices there are lots of organisations that can offer you help and advice.

If you are in immediate danger call 999.

Merseyside Police - 101

Merseyside Police will investigate all reports of honour based violence, forced marriage and FGM. We have a specialist team of officers who will listen to you and work with you to keep you safe and investigate any criminal actions.

Savera UK - 0800 107 0726

Savera UK help people experiencing domestic abuse, or who are at risk of forced marriage, honour killing or female genital mutilation.

Karma Nirvana – 0800 599 9247

Karma Nirvana have been supporting victims of honour crimes and forced marriages since 1993. Lines are open between 9.30 am – 5.00 pm.

Home Office Forced Marriage Unit - 0207 008 0151

Freedom Charity - 0845 607 0133 

Charity for children and young people who are at risk or subject to honour based crimes/ forced marriages.

Childline - 0800 1111

NSPCC - 0808 800 500


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