Harmful Practices

Throughout the world, there are many different types of harmful practices that violate human rights, predominantly those of women.

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other damage to the genital organs, for supposed cultural, religious or non-medical reasons.

FGM (also known as female circumcision, ‘cutting’ and ‘sunna’) can affect females from birth to pregnancy.

It inflicts severe physical and psychological damage that can last a lifetime.

While there is some intelligence to suggest FGM is being physically performed in the UK, most victims are usually taken abroad, commonly on flights in the holiday periods of Easter, summer and Christmas.

Warning signs, effects, useful resources and contacts can be found on the Safe In Warwickshire website.

Honour-based violence (HBV)

HBV is a crime or incident that has, or may have been, committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.

HBV has the potential to be both a domestic abuse and child abuse concern.

Individuals, families and communities may take drastic steps to preserve, protect or avenge their “honour”.

This can lead to substantial human rights abuses, including:

  • Murder (so-called “honour killings”)
  • Forced marriages
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Dowry abuse (including “bride burning”)

Warning signs, effects, useful resources and contacts can be found on the Safe In Warwickshire website.

Forced marriage

Unlike an arranged marriage, where the prospective spouses may choose whether or not they wish to accept the partnership, a forced marriage is when one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage, or consent is extracted through duress.

Motivations of forced marriage can include:

  • Controlling behaviour and sexuality (including perceived promiscuity, or being gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans), in particular the behaviour and sexuality of women
  • Protecting “family honour”
  • Responding to peer group or family pressure
  • Attempting to strengthen family links

Additional motivations, warning signs, useful resources and contacts can be found on the Safe In Warwickshire website.

Professionals can download posters relating to these issues in our Resources section.

Spot the signs

Things to look out for if you or someone you know is at risk of forced marriage, FGM or HBV include:

  • School truancy, or not being allowed to work
  • Low motivation when at work or school
  • Lack of engagement extracurricular, or social, activities
  • Self-harm
  • Mental health concerns, such as depression
  • Reports of domestic abuse at home
  • Missing young people reported in the family in the past
  • A family history of forced marriage or FGM
  • Parents announcing they will be taking a child out of the country for a prolonged period


Contact Refuge to speak to someone about your options on 0800 408 1552.

Karma Nirvana is a national charity supporting victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage. Its helpline is on 0800 5999 247.

The National FGM Centre aims to keep children and young people safe from FGM and other harmful practices. You can call it on 0208 498 7137.