Sex, STIs and honour-based violence

What is honour-based violence? What is honour? What does this have to do with sex and STIs? Where is it most prevalent? Where can you find more information?

Honour-based violence

Honour-based violence is all forms of force and physical and psychological violence to prevent a member of the family from making a ‘mistake’ that can bring dishonour to the family in a certain community. It also includes all violence against the perceived ‘honour violator’ to restore the honour. This ‘honour-based violence’ varies from a restriction on the freedom of movement to mistreatment, from disowning to even murder.

Victims of honour-based violence can be women and girls as well as men and boys, homosexual men and lesbian women. Honour-based violence occurs in certain cultures and relates to the honour of a group or family. It is also encouraged and rewarded by the same group. The perpetrator of the honour killing can often count on the understanding of the environment. Honour-based violence is also referred to as honour killings.

What is honour?

Honour is the value of a person or his/her family in an environment usually dominated by a culture of ‘we’ and where common standards and values are shared. The honour of a person or family is determined by the community. It is a possession that can be taken away, stolen or attacked. Having honour is so important that some people are prepared to sacrifice their lives or the life of another to defend or regain the honour.


What does honour-based violence have to do with sex and STIs?

One way in which a family’s honour can be threatened is if a girl falls in love with a boy who is not accepted by the family. Or where it is suspected that the girl has had sex before marriage. There is a fear that the entire family will be looked down on. Particularly because a person is not expected to have sex, that person is often not well-prepared and there is a greater chance of having sex without a condom, with the risk of an STI or an unwanted pregnancy. This can bring shame on the family.

Another example is if a son is suspected of being homosexual. The family honour can be tainted as a result if this is not accepted by the community. The son can be forced, with violence, to marry a woman to restore the honour of the family.

Where does honour-based violence mainly happen?

Honour-based violence occurs mainly in traditional, patriarchal communities in countries around the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia. These are communities in which the men have the greatest say. In some family cultures, such as in Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan or Afghanistan, the ‘honour of the family’ can therefore be more important than the wellbeing of an individual family member.


More information?

Honour killings in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, honour killings take place in migrant communities from countries with a traditional patriarchal society, for example Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan or Afghanistan. There is a lot of focus on honour-based violence in the Netherlands. Fortunately, more and more people are moving away from the idea of vengeance to restore ‘honour’. In their home countries, too, developments continue to take place and we sometimes see that people who emigrated to the Netherlands a long time ago are more traditional than the society in their home country.

In spite of the fact that honour is and feels very genuine, experience has shown that there is also some wiggle room. You can seek help to dispel the fear of dishonour. For example, the community won’t all react in the same way. So look for people in the community who can support you or who are more open. There are institutions that can help you if you are worried about honour killings.