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"Honour crimes" and forced marriage

What is a so-called 'honour' crime?

So-called 'honour based violence' is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.

'So-called Honour Crime' is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights.

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 so-called honour'.

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

(definition used by the Metropolitan Police Working Group on honour based violence)

What is a forced marriage?

In a forced marriage you are coerced into marrying someone against your will. You may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed to do so. It is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis.

It’s not the same as an arranged marriage where you have a choice as to whether to accept the arrangement or not. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and countries for a very long time.

(Definition from the Foreign and Commonwealth office)

Both 'honour crimes' and forced marriage are forms of domestic violence.

Forced Marriage (civil protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25th November 2008

Recommendations on future work on forced marriage and so-called 'honour' crime

CPS pilot on forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ crime – findings

Policy for prosecuting domestic violence

Family members found guilty in "honour killing" case


The husband and mother-in-law of Surjit Kaur Athwal were today found guilty by an Old Bailey jury of her murder. The twenty seven year old mother of two children failed to return home after a trip to a wedding in India with her mother-in-law Bachan Kaur Athwal in December 1998. She has not been seen since, and her body has never been found.

Following the jury's verdict, Jaswant Narwal, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Central Criminal Court trials unit, said:

"Nearly nine years after Surjit went missing and following long and protracted investigations and numerous international enquiries the prosecution have achieved a conviction for her so-called honour killing. The murder of Surjit Kaur Athwal was a terrible loss not only to her young children, but also to her family and friends. This was a particularly difficult and complex case given that Surjit's body has never been found.

"The prosecution case rested largely on circumstantial evidence, and in particular crucial witness accounts from two members of the defendants' family, as there was virtually no forensic evidence. I applaud the bravery of these two individuals in coming forward and telling the court what they knew in extremely difficult circumstances.

"Bachan Kaur Athwal, mother-in-law, grandmother and matriarch of the Athwal family together with her son enlisted the support of their relatives in India to carry out this appalling murder, simply because they felt Surjit's behaviour was damaging their family honour. They wanted to 'get rid' of Surjit and thought it would be easier to do this in India and even thought they had got away with it.

"As the CPS continues to show, there is no honour in murder. Wherever there is sufficient evidence we will vigorously pursue those people who commit crimes in the name of so called honour, even where British subjects are taken abroad to be killed. Murder is murder and it will be prosecuted so."

For more information contact CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8127.