In the UK a number of bodies are operating as parallel legal systems, offering the possibility of Islamic divorce and other services to Muslim women in return for payment. Some Sharia ‘courts’ operate publicly and others function underground, which means it is not possible to know the total number. Many women feel pressured to go through sharia ‘courts’.

At IKWRO we have seen repeatedly how sharia ‘courts’ discriminate against women and children and play into the patriarchal, “honour” system. They endanger women and children, as they lack safeguards, and often dangerously pressure women and girls into mediation with perpetrators of domestic abuse and “honour” based abuse. This in effect, makes them complicit in this abuse.

Some sharia ‘courts’ have incorporated women into their operations and others present themselves as entirely run by women; however, this has not prevented them from discriminating against women and children or stopped their role in “honour” based abuse.

Such discrimination is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and IKWRO has also identified conflicts with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Children Act 1989 and the Human Rights Act 1998. We are also concerned that by allowing for the application of Sharia law within this country, the UK may be in breach of its obligations under Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which requires signatories to take all necessary steps to end discrimination against women and girls in relation to marriage and family life.

IKWRO calls for all sharia and other religious ‘courts’ to be banned and we reject the suggestion of regulation as a solution.



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