Honor used to justify abuse

Honor-based abuse is often hidden, because the perpetrator is usually a close relative who believes that the victim will or has dishonored them or the family.

Young women and LGBTQ+ people are at the highest risk of honor-based abuse. This happens when there is a strong incongruity between the society they live in and their family’s culture, and the reputation and the honor of the family is set above their well-being and right to self determination. It is a breach of human rights when family honor is set higher than the freedom of the individual.

In Iceland, both women and men have the right to choose who they wish to marry, they decide for themselves who their future spouse will be. No one may be forced into marriage.

Examples of honor-based abuse are when:

  • You are not permitted to choose your romantic partner or spouse.
  • Your family makes you feel bad when you adapt "too much" to your new culture.
  • Your family controls who you can spend time with.
  • A family member monitors your phone or email to see who you are communicating with.
  • You must go straight home after school and are not allowed to participate in sports or social activities.
  • You are not allowed to choose your friends and only allowed to have friends of the same background.
  • You are not allowed to choose how to spend your own money.
  • Your family acts as if you have disgraced them if you do not follow their rules exactly.
  • A family member forces you to marry someone you don’t want to marry.
  • You are threatened with violence if you do not end relationships with friends or romantic partners they do not approve of.
  • Your family speaks badly of cultures other than your own in order to control you.
  • You are prevented from returning to Iceland after summer vacation.

Get help

It can be difficult to recognize such situations and get out of them. It can involve leaving your family, which is often the only thing that you have in a new country. You can contact Bjarkarhlíð in Reykjavík or Bjarmahlíð in Akureyri, which specialize in assisting with all forms of abuse. Keep in mind that abuse is never acceptable and it is possible to get out of such situations.

Everyone, both adults and children, can also talk to someone at 1717 (Red Cross helpline).

Do you recognize abuse?

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Manneskjan á myndinni er leið. Hún er með sítt hár, gleraugu, í rauðri peysu og dökkum buxum. Hún situr með lokuð augun. og heldur utan um hnén á sér með hægri höndinni en er eins og hún sé að teygja sig í áttina að einhverjum.


Fatima is an Iranian girl who moved to Iceland with her family a few years ago. She is in the 8th grade at a school in Reykjavík and has lots of good friends in her class, both of Icelandic and foreign origin. For the last few weeks, Fatima has been walking home with her classmate Jóhann, which she likes because he is funny, entertaining, and smart.

Fatima’s brother does not like their friendship and gives Jóhann the evil eye every time they meet. A while later, he tackles Jóhann roughly while they are playing sports, but Jóhann does not make a big deal out of it. One evening, Fatima and Jóhann run into each other at the corner store and have a long talk. The day before summer vacation her dad appears at school unexpectedly and takes her home. Summer passes with Fatima nowhere to be seen and when school starts again she does not return.

Is this abuse?

More resources

View all resources

Women's Shelter

The Women‘s Shelter offers counseling and a safe place to stay for any woman who has experienced abuse in a close relationship.

Samtökin '78

Samtökin '78

Samtökin '78 is the National Queer Organisation of Iceland. They offer counseling for queer people who have experienced abuse in close relationships.


W.O.M.E.N (Women Of Multicultural Ethnicity Network in Iceland) is a social organization for women of foreign origin living in Iceland.

Religious abuse

When someone uses a spiritual practice or religion to frighten you, hurt you or control you, it is called religious abuse.

Manneskja á myndinni er alvarlega á svip og lítur niður. Hún er með hægri höndina á hjartastað en vinstri höndin er útrétt eins og faðmurinn sé opinn.

Emotional abuse

It is emotional abuse when someone threatens you or deliberately tries to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore you. Emotional abuse leaves invisible wounds that are often difficult to grasp.

Manneskja situr í hjólastól. Hún snýr frá okkur og horfir upp í vindinn. Mikið og liðað hár sveiflast í vindinum.