Author: Sam Harrison

Sector Partners Agree Statutory HBA Definition

Progress in working to end ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) has long been hampered by a lack of a clear definition within statutory frameworks, and issue that Savera UK has frequently raised through its research and evidence provided to inquiries and investigations into response to HBA. 

In March, Savera UK supported the launch of the #Push4Change campaign, an initiative that called upon the government to urgently introduce a statutory definition for HBA. This week, in a landmark move, we came together with Karma Nirvana and other sector partners to agree on a statutory definition to define HBA, which is legally sound and ready to be added to the statute book. 

Powerful Call to Action

As a collective, the sector has also written and published its joint letter to Minister Laura Farris, inviting them to meet and discuss the impact this would have and to urgently introduce this statutory definition for HBA. This milestone represents a pivotal moment in the fight against HBA, offering a unified framework to identify and address cases effectively. 

This development signals not only progress but also a powerful call to action. As advocates for change, the sector champions the rights of HBA survivors and demands accountability from policymakers.

A statutory definition for HBA is a crucial starting point for identifying cases and supporting survivors and those at risk. Statutory definitions play a vital role in providing precision, uniformity, and legal acknowledgement to critical matters. 

A Statutory Definition of HBA: The Impact

The impact of the introduction of a statutory definition of HBA will mean that there is better identification through shared understanding of HBA across all professional sectors, improved protection of survivors and those at risk through better guidance from statutory guidance and through survivor empowerment, more research and accurate data collection as well as more consistent reporting, which in turn leads to appropriate resource allocation through informed decision-making.

Despite the tireless efforts of charities over the past three decades, effectively dealing with HBA remains challenging. Last year, the Women and Equality Committee’s recommendation for a legal definition was rejected by the government, leaving vulnerable HBA survivors and those at risk in a vicious cycle of being continually misunderstood without a definition.

A survivor of ‘honour’-based abuse, who provided evidence to the Inquiry, stated:  “As someone who has faced ‘honour’-based abuse, it’s disheartening to know that we still don’t have a clear legal definition. If we genuinely want to put an end to this, we need to start by accurately defining it. It’s not just a matter of words; it’s about giving survivors the recognition and support they deserve, and that begins with acknowledging the problem for what it truly is.” 

Speaking of the sector-developed statutory definition, Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “A clear statutory definition for HBA is absolutely vital to improved understanding, identification and reporting of HBA, which in turn facilitates more effective and appropriate responses. This proposed definition has been developed by specialist, frontline services from across the UK with vast collective experience in working to end HBA. It will protect those of risk by giving professionals a robust framework to work with and it will empower survivors by recognising the severity of their risks/threat and making it easier for them to report and access help. It will also allow consistent reporting that feeds into improved data collection, which can be used to inform policy and service delivery. As a service we will be adopting this definition as our standard, alongside our sector peers, and we urge the government to do the same.”

You can read the joint letter in full here.

Understanding ‘Honour’-Based Abuse (HBA): Research and the Future

In January, Savera UK and research partners the University of Liverpool hosted an event to share findings from upcoming papers on HBA, discuss the practical implications and future research into the complex and challenging nature of HBA and harmful practices.

Our panel comprised Professor Khatidja Chantler, Professor of Gender, Equalities & Communities at Manchester Metropolitan University and Professor Michelle McManus, Professor in Criminal Justice and Safeguarding at Northumbria University.

L-R: Professor Almond, Professor Chantler, Afrah Qassim and Professor McManus.

Professors Chantler and McManus were joined by Louise Almond, Professor in Investigative and Forensic Psychology, University of Liverpool and Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, who are co-authors of a groundbreaking study examining survivor, perpetrator, and abuse characteristics in anonymised cases of HBA and harmful practices, the first academic paper to develop from the university’s partnership with Savera UK.

The event, which was attended by academics, professionals from voluntary and statutory services and other frontline workers supporting survivors and people at risk of HBA and harmful practices, started with a review of the first research paper, published in 2022, which aimed to increase understanding of HBA. The data source was from Savera UK data of 160 anonymous cases.

Perpetrator Types in HBA

It then moved on to reviewing initial findings from further research. The first area examined was from a paper that has recently been submitted for publication, looking at perpetrator types in HBA. The research took data from 107 cases and examined them from a perpetrator perspective, identifying three main perpetrator types – intimate partner, family and both intimate partner and family.

Discussing these perpetrator types, of the ‘both intimate partner and family’ group, Professor McManus said: “In relation to domestic violence research, this group tends to be the most complex, violent, and non-discriminatory in terms of who their victims are. In turn this means victims tend to get missed by the system. Therefore, bringing attention to this group is important.”

HBA Survivor Geographical Origin and Age

Further data looking at HBA characteristics associated with survivor geographical origin and age, was then presented by Doctoral Academic Teacher, Rebecca Ritchie. The aim of the study into age was to examine whether HBA characteristics were significantly associated with the survivor’s age , separating survivors into three groups, 25 and under, 26 to 39-year-olds and 40 years and over, representing different life stages. The study into geographical origin aimed to examine whether HBA characteristics were significantly associated with the survivor’s geographical origin.

Professor Chantler noted that some research showed that all South Asian abuse was automatically badged as HBA in police data, even if it wasn’t. She also highlighted the problematic nature of the intersections between bride wealth, poverty, and gender as key drivers in forced marriage.

Professor Chantler said: “It is important to understand the nuances of what HBA means in different communities and to understand that it happens in lots of different communities, which is what this research shows.”

Practical Implications of the Data

Considering the practical implications of the data presented from Savera UK and the University of Liverpool’s studies, the expert panel agreed that it was important because it highlights that HBA happens in many communities, and it raises important questions about what legislation is available to support victims and what types of services need to be commissioned to respond more strategically to the issues.

The panel also agreed that the research identified safeguarding issues, with domestic abuse risk assessments not being fit for purpose and HBA occupying an even smaller and less understood section of this wider issue, meaning there is currently no good risk assessment for HBA. This challenge is further magnified by the fact that there is no complete definition in law for HBA and no central, national data to work with to develop better safeguarding processes and tools.

Opportunities for Future Research

Based on the challenges and questions raised by the studies presented, the experts agreed that there was an opportunity to conduct further research to explore HBA in relation to safeguarding systems – how to get better responses from practitioners, create or improve risk assessments and increase early identifications of risk.

Early interventions and community interventions to spot signs and recognise HBA risks early on were discussed as a key future focus, with most survivors at present only getting support when they reach a crisis point within their HBA experience.

Future research could focus on understanding this journey to the crisis point, where victims are referred professionally rather than voluntarily. Professor McManus noted that in domestic violence research, when issues are reported by a third party, the victim is less likely to cooperate with professionals than when they self-refer. By exploring what enables HBA survivors and those at risk to come forward, we can identify early interventions and learn how to help them sooner.

With no national data set on HBA available, it is not possible to get a true idea of prevalence in the UK, so this was an area raised as a future focus, with getting HBA questions included in the Crime Survey for England and Wales highlighted as a potential idea for development.

Exploring Underrepresented Groups

Professor Chantler also highlighted the importance of exploring underrepresented groups such as male or Romani survivors and analysing different power relationships. She said: “In a small sample of male victims I found that men face similar emotional pressure as female victims, but the outcomes are different. For example, although they were forced into marriage, they knew they wouldn’t stay in the marriage and could continue other relationships alongside due to their greater sexual freedom and autonomy that women don’t have.”

Final thoughts for future development in research into HBA was supporting data with strong case studies to raise awareness and inform support for survivors, increasing the power, impact, and effectiveness of research findings, as well as consideration of how HBA affects the family around the survivors, and how professionals can ask questions about HBA with sensitivity to reduce the stigma and “race anxiety” about the topic.

Ending HBA and Harmful Practices

Speaking after the event, Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “I would like to thank our panel, researchers and paper co-authors and event attendees for such an engaging and thought-provoking discussion around our research.

“The data around HBA in the UK is so limited and we know that we are only just scratching the surface. By working together, academics, frontline workers, and local and national authorities, we will be able to paint a clearer picture of prevalence of HBA and harmful practices in the UK and gain a deeper understanding of causes and characteristics. With that knowledge we will work to create interventions that will end these practices for good.”

With thanks to Beth Roper

Savera UK Blog Post

Savera UK shares “disappointment and concern” over radical religious leader’s visit to the UK

Savera UK has shared its concern and disappointment following the arrival in the UK of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, Head Priest and leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community and a vocal advocate of FGM.

Alongside other organisations tackling harmful practices and violence against women and girls (VAWG), Savera UK has raised its concerns that the arrival of the Syedna could put girls at increased and imminent risk of FGM in the UK.

Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, said: “Like many other organisations that tackle harmful practices and VAWG, Savera UK is disappointed and deeply concerned that Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin was granted a visa to enter the UK, despite his vocal support for FGM. 

“This decision may have put countless women and girls at risk, especially during the high-risk summer holiday period, when schools are closed and there are fewer safeguarding measures in place. 

“We support the call by WeSpeakOut, Equality Now and others for the Syedna to publicly denounce FGM to his followers around the globe. We also demand that those who support this cruel and forbidden practice, which is a violation of human rights – particularly those with power or influence – are not granted entry into this country. FGM is illegal here and it is the responsibility of our government to protect the safety of women and girls, by denying access to those who support and even advocate these harmful practices.”

Setting the Story Straight: Challenging and informing media representation of HBA and harmful practices

On Thursday 9th June (4pm – 6pm) Savera UK will host a free webinar examining how ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful culturally-specific practices are represented in the media. 

The event will see Savera UK share the results of a survey of professionals and survivors on the representation of practices including HBA, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. 

We will also hear from survivors and professionals working in the field about the impact these representations can have, and discuss the challenges and issues on reporting on harmful practices and best practices for journalists when raising awareness and sharing the stories of survivors.

You can register for your free place here:



Ngunan Adamu, Presenter/Producer 

Ngunan is a BBC Radio Merseyside presenter/producer for the Upfront Show. She is the founder and CEO of iWoman, a programme which helps unemployed women in the region develop the skills and confidence to get into media, and has also been involved in training other journalists for the BBC World Service and worked on the BBC Young Reporter programme.


Maya Oppenheim, Journalist

Maya is women’s correspondent at The Independent – the only women’s correspondent at a UK news outlet. She writes news, social policy and global stories from a women’s angle, focusing on human rights, sexual violence, domestic abuse, abortion, prisons, health, poverty and more.


Afrah Qassim, CEO & Founder, Savera UK

Afrah is the founder and CEO of Savera UK, a leading national organisation tackling the causes and effects of harmful practices including ‘honour’-based abuse, female genital mutilation and forced/child marriage. Afrah is also the Chair of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF).


Khatra Paterson, Savera UK Survivor Ambassador

Khatra is the director and owner of KP Aesthetics, a wife, mother of two and survivor of FGM. She says: “Past experiences of abuse do not have to define you as a person. Growing up in a fearful household due to persistent domestic abuse and being the subject to Female Genital Mutilation is abhorrent but I’ve used my past to help other survivors. I’m a strong believer that through education you can change cultural beliefs that have a negative impact on women and children. As an Ambassador for Savera U.K. I will be using my experience of being a survivor to educate, support and make change.”


Zuleika Sassa, Survivor

Zuleika is the founder of Sassafit and is a personal trainer, nutritionist and wellbeing adviser. She is a survivor of forced marriage and supports Savera UK to share a message of hope that it is possible to get out of abusive situations, that there is another life out there and it is possible to find a ‘new beginning’.


Saliha Rashid, Survivor & Campaigner

Saliha Rashid is a long-time campaigner, working to bring vital change for disabled survivors. After growing up feeling trapped and isolated within a community which operated an ‘honour’ system based on protecting the family’s reputation, Saliha has now built herself a successful and independent life free from abuse. Saliha says she shares her experience to make sure that the voices of disabled survivors are heard, and wants to increase awareness of how domestic abuse and honour-based violence affects disabled women as well as the additional barriers they face when escaping the abuse. 


If you have any questions email [email protected] 

This event is kindly funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation

Savera UK aims to make events as accessible as possible. If you require reasonable adjustments to access this online event, then please contact us one week before the event so that actions can be taken to support you.