Why We Must Stop Anti-Gay ‘Honor Abuse’

A new study reveals that in many places in the world, anti-gay violence is still treated as culturally acceptable.

The study, published this month in the “Journal of Interpersonal Violence” and available in full here, looks specifically at cases where “honor abuse” and anti-gay violence intersect.

Honor abuse occurs in families who come from cultures that put a great deal of worth on the concept of “family honor“. To be an upstanding family often means all of its various members adhering to societal norms. You’re probably most familiar with the idea of honor where young women are concerned, and honor abuse may come into play if a young woman is being forced into a marriage or where a young woman fails to adhere to the standards her family sets.

Honor violence is where a family reacts violently toward a family member who they perceive to have endangered the family’s honor or social standing. Such punishments can take the form of emotional or psychological abuse, being cut-off from the family, physical abuse and even murder.

What is particularly disturbing about honor abuse is that it often comes from several members of a family, and not just one perpetrator.

A team of researchers from the University of Bolton, Monash University, University of Kent and the Aga Khan University sought to find out what attitudes were like over honor abuse where it relates to a victim’s gay identity. Put another way, how acceptable is it to commit such abuse if the victim is gay?

The researchers recruited 922 students between 16 and 61 years of age from four countries: India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Iran. They also recruited Asian British and white British students in England. The gender divide in this group was 511 female-identifying persons to 410 male.

The researchers found that there were a lot of variables that affected whether someone thought anti-gay violence was acceptable. These included gender, age, level of education and religious affiliation and what denomination of that religion.

Men were more likely to say honor violence is acceptable against gay people, though a proportion of women did believe this to be true, as well.

One of the key factors to changing this was education. People who held a university degree were more likely to say they found such violence unacceptable.

Where religious affiliation was concerned, Muslim-identifying people were more likely to say that they believed anti-gay violence was acceptable when compared to non-Muslims or people of no religion.

Men who live in countries where family honor is a key part of life were, in general, more likely to say that anti-gay violence is acceptable, too. People from countries like Pakistan and India, where honor culture is prevalent, were more likely to say that anti-gay violence is acceptable. Interestingly, respondents from Malaysia and Iran were less likely to endorse anti-gay violence in relation to honor culture when compared to respondents from other nations. Finally, British Asian people were more likely to endorse anti-gay attitudes than British white people.

Dr. Roxanne Khan, Director of the HARM Network which was instrumental in this study, puts these findings in perspective, saying: “In a world where at least 69 countries still have national laws criminalising same-sex relations and anti-gay violence is on the rise, with countries such Brunei recently introducing new anti-gay laws, we feel this research is vital to make steps towards understanding perceptions of anti-gay honour abuse. Our results found that older, religious, less educated, and married individuals would endorse anti-gay honour abuse more than younger, non-religious, more educated, and unmarried people. We also found that participants from all four Asian nations and British Asians would be more endorsing of the damage to honour and more accepting of anti-gay honour abuse than British White participants.”

This research is critical in several regards. One is that it speaks to the difficulty we have in unpicking anti-gay attitudes because, as this demonstrates, while educational opportunities and standard of living might predict more accepting attitudes in general, the notion of honor and the religious underpinnings of those ideas can run deep.

Honor abuse is often a difficult issue to tackle, because it is so entrenched in a person’s understanding of their culture that it must be slowly and carefully tackled. This research suggests that, similar to how honor-related violence is tackled, tackling anti-gay violence can be done through a process of examining learned behaviors and ideas that are relics of the ”family honor” belief.

This research cannot tell us about wider anti-LGBT violence, but it does suggest that honor-based violence against trans people may likewise benefit from careful examination. Furthermore, this research adds to the spotlight that honor-based violence needs in order for it to be tackled.

Photo credit: Getty Images.


Gabriel C
Gabriel C12 days ago

Thanks for posting

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H22 days ago


Alea C
Alea C24 days ago

There is no honor in abuse of any kind. I hate religions.

Loredana V
Loredana V24 days ago

Anti-gay = anti-human.
That's why we must stop every anti-gay actions/words.
Killing can't be related to "honor".

Elizabeth H
Elizabeth H24 days ago

Mostly stone age thinking people. We get "honor killings" in this country.

Lesa D
Lesa D24 days ago

there is NO honor in 'honor abuse' or 'honor killing' ~ PERIOD!

thank you Steve...

RK R24 days ago

True. Besides that most of our Bill-of-Rights is treated as legally an acceptable and illegal in many nations.

Lisa M
Lisa M24 days ago


Lisa M
Lisa M24 days ago


Sherry Kohn
Sherry K24 days ago

Many thanks to you !