Vägar ut och vägar in: Hedersrelaterat våld och förtryck och kvinnors etablering i arbetslivet

Translated title of the contribution: Pathways: out and in : Honour-based violence and the establishment of women in working life

Rúna í Baianstovu, Emmie Särnstedt Gramnaes

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Honour-based violence (HBV) includes a wide range of psychological, physical, sexual, and material limitations, violations and acts of violence aimed at preserving or restoring the reputation of a family in the eyes of those around them. Strict gender norms that regulate people's opportunities to shape their lives are a fundamental element in all honour contexts. Convictions about which relationships, places, tasks, and roles that are suitable for girls, boys, women and men of different ages and social positions, lead to limitations, especially for girls and women - not least their opportunities for education and work outside the family.

We have analyzed 26 life stories from women who have been subjected to HBV, focusing on how the exposure to violence affects their opportunities for establishment in working life. The life story data comes from Honour and Society, the Swedish Metropolitan Survey comprising the three major cities Gothenburg, Malmö, and Stockholm, 2017-2018.The overall results of the analysis show, firstly, that the gendered obligations and chastity norms of the honour context limit girls' and women's opportunities for education. Some of the interviewees have been allowed to study on family terms while others have been completely prevented. Many have had difficulty completing their studies due to turbulence and ill health because of the violence. Secondly, it is shown that exposure to HBV in the short and long term makes it difficult to establish oneself in working life and society at large. The interview participants who lived in strict honour contexts generally lack work experience during adolescence, as well as other experiences that are central to establishment in working life. Some of the women who arrived in Sweden in adulthood are far from the labor market because they have been prevented from learning Swedish and having contact with society outside the context of honour. Many of our interviewees have lived, and still live, in difficult circumstances due to a serious threat, protected identity, constant break-ups and persistent mental and physical illness, which impairs their ability to work.Some of these circumstances are common to those exposed to violence, regardless of whether they have been subjected to HBV or other forms of violence. But some variations are specifically linked to the degree of confinement and mobility of the honour context, respectively.

Patterns. One pattern is that the interview participants whose parents, or other close relatives, have succeeded in establishing themselves in the Swedish labor market eventually educate themselves and work, albeit with difficulties and delays. Whether the parents establish themselves and work in Sweden seems to be more important than the parents' level of education and career in the former home country. This is because the parents who work in Sweden take a larger share of Swedish society, and thus live in a higher degree of mobility and norm change than the parents who do not work and have few contacts with others outside the primary group and thus reside in segregated groups where the honour norms remain strong or even have become strengthened by migration. When parents and other family members work, contact with the surrounding society increases while their social and economic dependence on the honour context decreases, which leads to the honour norms being challenged and weakened. Such mobility leads to a change in norms that improves girls' and women's opportunities for education and work outside the honour context.

A second pattern is that the interview participants who grew up in ethnic and religious minorities, experiencing war and persecution, low levels of education and poverty have poorer conditions for study and work. Such circumstances force people to join inwardly to ensure their survival and are a soil for strict honour norms which are closely linked to the family's livelihood. In families where the main livelihood rests on transnational relations, work in family businesses and marriages of daughters within the honour context, compulsory schooling in Sweden becomes a problem, as it endangers daughters’ chastity. The same applies to women's work outside the family. But this varies depending on the density of the honour norms in various contexts. In affluent families with high status, girls' school performance can instead be seen as a measure of their chastity; the family's reputation is favored if the daughters perform impeccably in school and in all areas of life, as it signals a kind of uplifted caring that fits into the image of the successful family. The heteronormative gender order in the honour context is about being a true man or woman in accordance to age and social position. Girls and women in high-status families can therefore, in some cases, enjoy a relative, conditional freedom if their studies and work benefit the family.A third and final pattern has to do with the transformation of honour norms. Several of the interviewees talk about conflicts within the context of honour - sometimes between the parents, other times between the parents and brothers who abuse their sisters on their own initiative, and still others between the parents and the larger family community. Some of the conflicts arise when young men inculcate strict honour norms - that their parents do not recognize - in new, neighborhood-based communities arising due to segregation, discrimination, unequal access to welfare and other circumstances that contribute to exclusion. Here we see how socio-economic gaps become a breeding ground for strengthened honour norms. Other conflicts arise when a person or a family adopts progressive values ​​that go against the norms of honour. For this to happen, access to ideas that challenge the context of honour is needed, but above all that is needed is the opportunity for livelihood, welfare and social contexts that make it possible to create a meaningful life outside it the context and inside a society characterised by diversity and democracy. Thus, honour norms are not fixed and finished once and for all; they are strengthened or weakened depending on the living conditions of human beings, whose extreme structural level can be summarized as degrees of confinement and mobility. Education and work outside the honour circle's narrow circle of family and relatives can offer women who are exposed to HBV a path to a life of security and freedom.

Translated title of the contributionPathways: out and in : Honour-based violence and the establishment of women in working life
Original languageSwedish
Place of PublicationStockholm
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Honour
  • violence
  • segregation
  • isolation
  • mobility
  • school
  • education
  • work


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