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Elizabeth Hughes is our Scottish Multi-Agency Lead. In this blog she talks about one of the key findings that have come out of research carried out by the Safer, Sooner team on current and best practice of so called 'honour’-based abuse and forced marriage cases at Marac in Scotland. 

The term, So Called ‘Honour’-Based Abuse (HBA) is used because ‘honour’ or ‘izzat’ has no place in abuse and killings.

As part of the Equally Safe funded Safer, Sooner programme, we carried out research on Marac referral and response to HBA cases in Scotland. Our work is focused on improving multi-agency consistency, capacity, and systems across Scotland to ensure they are survivor-centred and accessible to all victims. 

We gathered data from specialist practitioners and Scottish Maracs, to find out what guidance is needed to deliver the best response we can to victims of HBA in Scotland.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 introduced a law that criminalises a course of coercive and controlling conduct, which is now widely recognised as abusive. Yet, while this legislation represents a determined effort to recognise the complexity of domestic abuse, the infrastructure of this act specifies that domestic abuse is only recognised when committed by a partner or ex-partner, leaving legislative gaps for victims of HBA to fall through. 

And whilst at a strategic policy level, the Scottish Government’s Equally Safe Strategy incorporates HBA into their wider definition of domestic abuse, there remains no statutory definition of HBA and no specific crime of HBA within Scots’ law. 

These gaps influence Scotland’s multi-agency response to HBA victims leaving them vulnerable to their experiences. The way Maracs across Scotland respond to HBA referrals is inconsistent. Many Maracs do not accept HBA referrals when the primary perpetrator is not a partner or ex-partner - despite an identification of high-risk. 

If not for the perseverance of specialist services supporting HBA victims (regardless of whom the abuse is perpetrated by), there would be little to no support for these victims in Scotland. They courageously advocate for better protection for victims, recognising that at legal and policy level there are too many barricades in the way of better protection for HBA victims.

The inconsistency of Marac response to HBA results in specialist services unempowered to make an effective referral. This leaves them struggling in isolation, unsupported and overwhelmed bearing full responsibility for navigating through a minefield, towards a safe space for victims.  

Marac is a key framework for tackling high-risk domestic abuse and gender-based violence. Core agencies are the driving force of Marac, with the power and resources to help victims become safer sooner and deter perpetrators from continuing harm. When Marac works, it works well! Research shows that 71% of victims discussed at Marac feel safer and more than two-thirds say their quality of life has improved since they got help. 

HBA victims and specialist services need reinforcement and call for an alliance with Scottish Maracs. Now is the time for intentional change so that all who have been identified at being high risk of serious harm or homicide are supported to become safer, sooner. Without question, there is honour in that.  

Improve your Maracs response to HBA – read our new guidance here.


Date for the diary

The National Day of Memory for Victims of Honour Killings takes place each year on 14 July to commemorate victims of HBA in the UK.


Support services

Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre
National support and advice service for Muslim and Black, Asian, and racially minoritised women.
Helpline: 0808 801 0301

Domestic Abuse support for LGBT & male survivors in Scotland

LGBT Domestic Abuse 
Helpline: 0800 999 5428

Hemat Gryffe Women’s Aid
Specialist domestic abuse service for Black, Asian, and racially minoritised women and children in the Glasgow area

Karma Nirvana
UK Honour Based Abuse 
Helpline: 0800 5999 247

LGBT Domestic Abuse Scotland
Domestic Abuse project managed by LGBT Youth Scotland 

Specialist mental health and well-being support for Black, Asian, and racially minoritised women and girls (12+) in the Edinburgh and Glasgow area

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234

Shakti Women’s Aid
Specialist domestic abuse service for Black, Asian, and racially minoritised women and children in Edinburgh & the Lothians, as well as outreach services in Fife, Dundee and Forth Valley. Including a specific support service for LGBT victims experiencing domestic abuse and ‘honour’-based abuse.