Thousands of Muslim women living in the UK are not legally married, even if they believe they are.
This is because many choose to have Islamic weddings which take place under Sharia law but such marriages are not recognised by English law. Government official Dame Louise Casey pointed this out in a report published this week about integration and extremism.
“[T]here are now up to 100,000 Sharia marriages in the UK, many of which are not recognised under UK laws and leave women without full legal rights upon divorce.”
Dame Louise also cited a report from the Muslim Women’s Network which said that around half of all the couples who go through the Birmingham Central Mosque Sharia Council in order to divorce are not legally married in the first place. Sharia councils provide advice for Muslims about matters such as family disputes and how they fit with Islamic teaching.
There is a “worryingly high” potential for Muslim women in this country to “find themselves in what they believe to be a binding commitment, be economically and socially dependent on their spouse, and yet have no legal marriage status” she insisted.
This report supports the claims of Aurat, a charity in the West Midlands which supports women who are the victims of ‘honour’ related abuse. In 2014, the organisation said Muslim wives are being left with no legal rights when they try to escape a religious marriage.
Dame Louise recommended that, regardless of religious affiliation, all marriages in the UK should be legally registered. It is also important that “women in 21st century Britain are better informed about their rights” especially when it comes to marriage and divorce, she said.
Read The Casey Review here.