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Historical Overview of U.S. Policy and Legislative Responses to Honor-Based Violence, Forced Marriage, and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

NCJ Number
Marieke Brock; Emma Buckthal
Date Published
September 2018
83 pages

This report's objective is to improve law enforcement's understanding and identification of culturally based practices that involve honor-based violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting.


The report first provides a global historical perspective of these culturally based practices, their current prevalence in the United States, and how federal agencies are responding to these forms of gender-based violence and abuse. The main body of the report presents the research findings by type of violence and outlines current government efforts to counter it. The report notes that these practices are not limited to a specific religious doctrine, but rather are based in the cultural concept of honor that relates to a family's reputation, status, and image among others with similar views of honor. The behavior of female family members is viewed as having a direct impact on a family's honor, and when family members perceive that a female family member has acted in a way to undermine the family's honor, she must be punished in order for the family to regain its honor. This report notes that honor-based punishments that victimize females are difficult to identify, such that intervention and prevention must be well-coordinated and involve multiple agencies and professionals. Most efforts at the national level address female genital mutilation, which is the only type of honor-based violence that has been criminalized under federal law; however, criminal justice agencies have sought to minimize all three types of violence addressed in this report. To date, the lack of consistent data on honor-based violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting has made it difficult to measure progress in countering these harms to women. 21 tables, 12 figures, 10 appendices of supplementary information, references, and a selected bibliography