Reported 81% rise in ‘honour’-based abuse offences is ‘tip of the iceberg’, says Savera UK CEO

Last week, The Guardian reported an 81 percent increase in ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) offences in the last five years.

The increase was identified following freedom of information (FoI) requests for data on the number of HBA cases to constabularies across the UK. Twenty-eight out of 39 constabularies responded to these requests, revealing that numbers of such cases have risen from 884 in 2016 to 1,599 in 2020.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP), the UK’s fourth-largest constabulary, was unable to respond to the FoI request due to the installation of a new IT system, potentially leaving a large gap in true figures.

Banaz Mahmod
Banaz Mahmod was the victim of a so-called ‘honour’ killing in 2006

Savera UK CEO and founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “Last year, 83 percent of referrals into our service were individuals at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse, so this significant increase in cases across the UK is sadly not surprising, but it should be a wake-up call to all of us, including police, social services and educational establishments.

“While increased reporting and people reaching out for help is a positive development, we know from working within affected communities that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Signs of these forms of abuse are too often missed by statutory services, or not dealt with in an appropriate manner, which is why many at risk may not feel like they can come forward for help.

“We agree with Imran Khodabocus from the Family Law Company, who is calling for improved education around ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices, such as forced/child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) and we also stand with the organisations calling for a fresh review of policing of honour-based abuse by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate these issues. During lockdown, calls and referrals to Savera UK increased by 30 percent. We remain committed to supporting survivors and those at risk, regardless of age, culture, sexuality or gender, as well as working with schools and universities, professional services and police forces across the UK to improve understanding and education around these issues.”