The High Court has rejected a devout Muslim man’s claim that he cannot divorce in the UK.
He had insisted that because he and his wife married in Pakistan under Sharia law a divorce could only be approved in that country. The man made this argument after his wife, a dual British and Pakistani citizen, filed a petition for divorce here in the UK.
Following a hearing in Birmingham, Mr Justice Francis dismissed the man’s claim and ruled that his wife was entitled to seek a divorce in England.
Accepting the man’s argument would have “far-reaching consequences”, the Judge explained. Had he done so, the wife “would be subjected to different rules of English law than people of other faiths or other nationalities living here”.
This would amount to “approving both racial and gender discrimination” Mr Justice Francis declared. If the husband’s claim was endorsed by the Court, it would state that his wife “should be treated differently from a British citizen who is not a national of Pakistan”.
As for gender discrimination, the Judge said that “the rights granted to men in Pakistan to secure divorces pursuant to the laws of that country are different from the rights granted to women” as the process is “more onerous” for women than it is for men.
However, the Sharia divorce system is by no means easier for women in the UK. There are around 30 Sharia courts throughout the country which advise on aspects of Islamic law and deal with religious divorce. In 2015 a legal scholar from Leiden University in the Netherlands claimed that these courts “are known to frustrate women in their requests” for a divorce. This behaviour keeps many Muslim women in “marital captivity” the academic claimed.
Photo by Ted and Jen via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.