SOAS University of London

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

About The Honour Crimes Project

The 'Honour Crimes' Project operated over the years 2000-2005,  jointly co-ordinated by CIMEL (Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Laws) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University and INTERIGHTS (International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights). The project was an action-oriented collaborative research project on Strategies to Address 'Crimes of Honour' initiated in 1999 and co-directed by Lynn Welchman, then the Director of CIMEL, and Sara Hossain, then  Legal Officer (South Asia) at INTERIGHTS and a barrister at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

Globally, the Project sought to facilitate co-operation among activists, lawyers, academics and others and to develop and deepen understanding, explore theoretical frameworks and build upon diverse and multiple strategies, nationally, regionally and internationally, to combat impunity for those responsible for 'honour' crimes and to challenge the climate of support for the practice amongst state institutions.

Following the publication in 2005 of the papers produced by the Project and its partners, the Project ceased active operation (please see the home page of the Project for current status). The report below relates to the early years of the Project’s operation, with updates showing the current status of various materials as of 2013.

In its first year (July 2000 – June 2001)

The Project undertook several activities to identify commonalties in incidence, practice and law that might contribute to developing such strategies within the framework of international human rights law. These activities included:

  • Undertaking a 'mapping exercise' to identify the work done and currently being undertaken to address the issue of 'honour' crimes globally. Initial research had indicated that until recently, many of those working at the national or regional level on this issue were unaware of work being carried out elsewhere, particularly in other regions. The 'mapping exercise' has resulted in a Directory available on this website and by hard copy via CIMEL on request;
  • Preparing the first version of an Annotated Bibliography (see following page on this website);
  • Compiling Statutory Provisions on Crimes of 'Honour' in the Penal Codes of Arab states (updated 2013, see under Materials and Resources);
  • Compiling extracts of international human rights documents on 'honour' crimes, including 'honour' killings and forced marriage (updated 2013, see under Materials and Resources);
  • Submitting material on 'honour' crimes across the world to relevant UN human rights mechanisms;
  • Holding a Roundtable on Crimes of 'Honour', which was participated in by twenty key scholars, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists from Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Pakistan and the UK, and publishing the summary proceedings of the Roundtable (see 'Roundtable on Strategies to Address 'Crimes of Honour': A Summary Report', 439-461 in 6 Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law 1999-2000. The report can be accessed at this website under Events).
Focusing specifically on the issue of forced marriage, the Project also:
  • Commissioned papers on the practice within the UK ('Forced Marriage: A Crime of Honour', and 'Respecting Choice in Marriage within Family and Community: A Cultural/Contextual Approach to Combating Forced Marriage');
  • In collaboration with human rights groups in Bangladesh and Pakistan, contributed a joint submission to the British Government's Home Office Working Group on Forced Marriage, recommending strategies to be undertaken to protect women and girls at risk of abduction and forced marriage from the UK to Bangladesh or Pakistan;
  • Convened a practitioners' seminar on 'Forced Marriage as an Abuse of Human Rights: Legal and Social Issues' in July 2000, to enable reflection on the scope and dimensions of the practice of forced marriage as an abuse of internationally recognised human rights, and to explore legal and other strategies.

In its second year (July 2001 – June 2002)

The Project continued to expand on its existing initiatives. Its activities included:

  • Updating and expanding the 'mapping exercise' over the year;
  • Maintaining and updating the Annotated Bibliography, including new entries and a substantial number of case summaries, which came out in August 2001. (For update see Bibliography on this website);
  • Updating the compilation of extracts of international human rights documents on 'honour' killings and forced marriage;
  • Preparing an article entitled 'Crimes of 'Honour': Problematising a Project' by Dr. Lynn Welchman, at the request of Suad Joseph of the American University of Cairo and the University of California at Davis. Commissioning a training film on forced marriage, 'Love Snatched', by film-maker Gita Sahgal, in order to facilitate the process of community level education and the raising of awareness on the issue of forced marriage. The film was screened at a cinema in London in May 2002 to academics, lawyers, teachers, activists, journalists and representatives from relevant agencies such as social services, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the police. It is to be translated possibly into Arabic and some South Asian languages (see Partner Projects);
  • Continuing work on the Handbook on Forced Marriage: Rights and Remedies in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (2004), a manual focussing on law, process and resources on the subject that is funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office;
  • Commissioning country studies on the issue of 'honour crimes' from individuals/organisations in Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan and Turkey (see Partner Projects);
  • Holding a three-day international meeting on 'crimes of honour' in London in February 2002, which was attended by lawyers, scholars and activists from Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Pakistan, the UK and the USA (see Events);
  • In collaboration with Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), holding a launch of Dr Faustina Pereira's The Fractured Scales: the Search for a Uniform Personal Code in Bangladesh (UPL/Stree, 2002) at SOAS in April 2002.

In its third phase (July 2002 – December 2003)

The Project continued to expand on existing initiatives and develop new areas. Activities included:

  • Updating and expanding the 'mapping exercise' over the year. An updated version of the Directory on Initiatives to Address 'Crimes of Honour' was finalised in December 2002. Hardcopies of the Directory were printed and distributed and the electronic version, which is continuously updated, was made available through the Project website;
  • Maintaining and updating the Bibliography which, given the volume of material, was divided into two documents: an Annotated Bibliography and a collection of Case Summaries from jurisdictions throughout the world. Electronic copies of both documents are available through the Project website. Further to co-operation between the LSE Gender Institute's project on 'Sexual & Cultural Equality: Conflicts and Tensions', additional case summaries from UK jurisdictions may be found in the Women and Cultural Diversity: Digest of Cases;
  • Completed the first edition of 'Selected International Human Rights Materials addressing 'Crimes of Honour'' an easily accessible collection of human rights materials from international and regional bodies relevant to those seeking to research and address 'crimes of honour', including 'honour killings' and forced marriage;
  • Continuing work on the Handbook on Forced Marriage: Rights and Remedies in the UK, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (2004), a manual focussing on law, process and resources on the subject that is funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office;
  • Provided advocacy and interventions, including presentations of papers and participation in a number of conferences and workshops on 'honour crimes' and forced marriage, convened by various agencies and institutions, including the UK Metropolitan Police Service and NGOs, including in Brazil, India, Spain and the UK. Summaries of several of these meetings are available under the Events section of the Project website.

In addition to these activities, the Project also began work on the Project Book, a publication which will serve as a resource for and within diverse groups and regions on the development of effective strategies to address 'crimes of honour'. The book was published in 2005 as: Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain (eds), Honour: Crimes, Paradigms and Violence Against Women  (London: Zed Books); please see the next page of this website  for further details.  The project directors would like to thank the Ford Foundation in New York for funding the project. In particular we would like to thank Mahnaz Ispahani, formerly of the Ford Foundation in New York for her initial support to the Project.