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Muslim wives have ‘no rights’ in divorce

A number of Muslim women living in the UK are being left with no legal rights when they try to leave religious marriages, a new report has found.

Aurat, a West Midlands charity which supports women who are victims of so-called ‘honour’ related abuse, claims that some women who marry in Islamic ceremonies are often not married under English law. As a result, they can find themselves without legal protection if they choose to separate.

The report was based on an analysis of case reports from the charity, which interviewed 50 Muslim women between August and September 2014. Forty-six of the women self-identified as being married, but only five of those were recognised by English law.

To make matters worse, the report also found that over half of the women who were not legally married did not realise this meant they had fewer legal rights as a result.

The women interviewed also revealed the cultural pressure they were under to remain married. Almost half said they would not have support from their community or their family if they sought a divorce.

In a foreword to the report, cross-bench peer Baroness Cox claimed that while abuse can manifest in “any faith tradition”, the predicament of women in Islamic communities is “exacerbated by the application of established Sharia law principles which inherently discriminate against women and girls”.

She added that the problems identified in the report were merely “the tip of the iceberg” as there are “countless” more women in similar circumstances throughout the country.

To read the full report, click here.

Last year, the Crown Prosecution Service claimed that some Sharia family courts were endangering women and children.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    So what is anyone supposed to do about it? We CANNOT sell the pass on this. Every marriage celebrated in any jurisdiction of the UK must

    (1) be preceded by preliminaries in which both parties state -upon criminal penalties – that they are free to marry (by the law of this country) and produce valid evidence of divorce (or widowhood); and

    (2) be recorded and registered in a form with which everyone is familiar who needs to be: partiuclarly HMRC and the Probate Registries, but there are many others.

    There is no great difficulty about mosques being registered for marriages and complying with the Marriage Act; or they can refuse to marry people who have not already been civilly married.

    This is a problem of Muslim (or occasionally of Hindu and rarely of Jewish) making.

  2. Tunisia’s marriage restriction ‘undermines human rights’ – tunisian monitor online says:

    […] if a non-Muslim man wishes to marry a Muslim woman he must convert to Islam and present a certificate as proof of this conversion before he is allowed […]

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