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Apostates who suffer domestic abuse will be better protected in new legislation

Humanists UK has welcomed the publication of the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019 which will create a much broader statutory definition of domestic abuse and put in place stronger protections for victims including apostates who have left high-control religions.

In May last year, Humanists UK and Faith to Faithless submitted a joint response to the consultation on the terms of the bill, held by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. In our submission we called for the definition of perpetrators to be expanded beyond intimate partners to those in the wider family and community who are often involved in honour-based abuse and violence. The Government’s new statutory definition recognises that ‘domestic abuse does not only occur between couples… It can exist between older siblings, or the wider extended family in elder or honour-based violence.’ And for the first time, non-physical and economic abuse will also be included in the definition, as well as those aged 16 and 17 will be recognisable as being the victims of domestic abuse. The bill will also create new powers to curb perpetrators’ behaviour and establish a national domestic abuse commissioner.

Since its foundation in 2015, Faith to Faithless, a Humanists UK programme that supports apostates, has compiled a considerable number of case studies that detail both abuse based upon religious doctrines, and the strong links between leaving a religion and domestic abuse, forced marriage, and honour-based violence.

In the submission the groups highlighted examples of controlling behaviour that has affected apostates. This included controlling a victim’s dress or make-up that is not approved by the family or community, resisting an arranged marriage or seeking divorce, and reporting domestic violence. This abuse can develop from family and community members using shame and guilt to ostracise or to control the victim to in some cases, physical violence or murder.

The Government has also committed to ensuring that education about domestic abuse and healthy relationships will be included in the syllabus for the new subject of Relationships and Sex Education which will be compulsory in all secondary schools from September 2020.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are pleased that the Government has brought forward legislation to tackle domestic abuse, which was first announced in 2017. Through our work supporting apostates and those who leave extreme or coercive religious groups, we are aware that they are often the victims of abuse by family members and members of their former religious communities, and we believe that this new statutory definition should provide them with increased protection and means of redress.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s and Faith to Faithless’ response:

Read more about Faith to Faithless:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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