‘Harmful Practices’ is a term used to describe forced marriage, honour-based violence (HBV) and female genital mutilation (FGM), all of which disproportionately affect women and girls. Here’s a quick overview of what each of these practices mean:

  • A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both people and pressure or abuse is used. It is an abuse of human rights, should not be confused with arranged marriage (where both parties willingly consent) and cannot be justified on any religious and cultural grounds.
  • So-called Honour-based violence is a crime or incident which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and or community. This can involve various degrees of violent practices including assault, false imprisonment, murder, disfigurement, enforced suicide, kidnap. Despite the term ‘honour’ based violence, it is recognised that there is no honour in and no legal defence for committing offences against the person.
  • Female genital mutilation (sometimes referred to as female circumcision) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is illegal in the UK.

Although official statistics paint a picture where the numbers of reported cases are small, the truth is that these are often hidden crimes which, for various reasons, are under-reported.

Regardless of the statistics, here at LAWC, we believe that even one example of these damaging practices taking place is too much. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to make Luton and Bedfordshire a ‘no Harmful Practices’ zone by 2030.

Black and white image of woman wearing a hijab

To achieve that we’re working hard to put educational measures in place so that every opportunity to keep women and girls safe from these practices is met.

We know this isn’t going to change things for everyone though and so we also provide a dedicated help and support service for women and girls affected by Harmful Practices.

If you are (or have been) affected by Harmful Practices and live in Luton or Bedfordshire, our aim is to help you stay safe, reduce your risk of associated harm (e.g. domestic abuse) and support you in moving successfully forward with your life.

What we can offer:

1-1 Casework 

When you come to us for help, we’ll talk with you about your current situation/ needs and allocate an individual adviser to your case. We’ll work with you to create a safety and recovery plan that will usually have several elements. For example, if you need guidance through criminal proceedings, we’ll help you to understand what is likely to happen. If you need help making practical improvements in your life (e.g. housing) we’ll guide and support you. And, if you need emotional support, we’ll be right by your side. Where beneficial, your adviser may refer you to other services at the centre too – e.g. professional counselling or our Wellbeing Group.

County-wide support

We work closely with several other organisations across Bedfordshire to ensure victims/survivors of Harmful Practices can access support wherever they are.

Alongside the casework we offer at the centre, we can make referrals to other agencies such as Bedford Women’s Centre (for women in the north of the county), and ACCM/Families First (for male victims).

Solicitors advice surgeries

We offer a free solicitor advice surgery for our clients at the centre which takes place twice a month on Wednesdays and Fridays.

This surgery is kindly supported by JKC Lawyers and is available only to women who are existing users of the centre.

Get help now!

If you believe you (or someone you know) is in immediate life-threatening danger, please call the Police on 999.

Otherwise, to find out more about accessing any part of our Harmful Practices Service, drop into the centre (Mon – Fri, between 9.30am – 12noon) or call us on 01582 416783. We guarantee you’ll be greeted by a friendly face or voice.

Access other sources of help, information and resources around forced marriage and honour-based abuse here.

Access other sources of help, information and resources around FGM here.