Honour-related oppression and violence

What is honour-related oppression and violence?

Are you not allowed to live as you wish? Do your family’s/relatives’ rules limit what you can wear, who you can spend time with, which subjects you can take part in at school, who you are allowed to marry? Are you supervised by one of your relatives? Are you punished if you go against your family’s system of rules? Does it feel like Swedish laws do not always apply to you and your situation?

Those who are subjected to any of these things are victims of something known as honour-related oppression and violence. The rules that must be followed can look different and the punishments can vary. It is important to know that it does not matter what the reasons are for the violence or abuse. There is no defence whenever children and young people’s rights are abused! A life free from oppression and violence is a rights issue. It’s not important what we call it, what is important is that you, who are young, shall have the right to a life without oppression and violence AND that you are in charge of your life and your future.

”Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me – if the whole family thinks this way then maybe they’re right. Can 40-50 people really be wrong?”
This was said by an 18-year old girl.

No! It’s not you who are wrong, the fault is with the family who stick together and follow traditions and rules which break the law and abuse your human rights. The control of young women’s virginity (that they have not had sexual intercourse) is important in an honour culture, where the family’s/relatives’ honour is dependent upon the girls’ and women’s sexual behaviour. A young woman shall be a virgin when she gets married and must have the reputation of being a ”good” girl. A bad reputation is often enough to damage a family’s honour – and it does not matter if anything has actually happened, the very existence of the rumour can lead to the young woman’s punishment. In order to ensure that the family’s/relatives’ girls and women are “good”, they are controlled by others in the family. This can mean both control of their everyday life, with limits regarding what the girls can wear and which friends they can socialize with, and also controls and limitations in major issues such as choice of education and marriage.

This is usually described as collective violence. This means that there can be several offenders (those who carry out the actions, i.e., strike someone) or that several are aware of threats and violence, but do nothing about it. There are rules for how one should behave and if these rules are not followed this can lead to various types of punishment.


Picture 1. 0 years 18 years Freedom and living space for children who live WITHOUT honour oppression

Picture 2. 0 years 18 years Freedom and living space for children who live WITH honour oppression


The diagram above illustrates how living space shrinks with age for those young women living in a family with honour rules. It is usually around puberty that the limitations placed on the young woman increase, in order to control her sexuality.

To have your rights taken away through honour oppression can mean…

  • That you cannot dress as you would like – or that you are forced to wear an item of clothing against your will
  • That you are not allowed to go out
  • That you cannot spend time with your friends
  • That you cannot marry the person you want to
  • That you are not in charge of your own body, your life or your sexuality
  • That you are always supervised or controlled
  • That you are not allowed to continue your studies, or may only study in the town where your family lives
  • That you are controlled by your family/relatives, who have more power than you do.

Young men and honour

Even if young men are often granted greater freedom and rights than young women, they can still also be forced to live by the rules of the honour system. Sometimes they are forced to control and punish their sisters, cousins and mothers, even if they do not want to. Young men can also be forced to marry someone who their family/relatives have chosen for them, against their will. They can also be frozen out or subjected to violence if they are not heterosexual.  If you want to read more about honour and homosexuality, you can do so here. There is a panic button if you want to leave the page quickly.

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