Bill to restrain ‘discriminatory’ Sharia law debated in Lords

Today the House of Lords debated a Bill which seeks to restrain the operation of Sharia councils in England and Wales.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill was tabled by Baroness Cox, a Patron of The Christian Institute.

A new website which supports the Bill and aims to help women affected by Sharia law was launched at the end of last month.

Suffering

Speaking in the Lords this morning, Baroness Cox told Peers her reasons for bringing the issue to the House.

She said the Bill seeks to address: “The suffering of women oppressed by religiously-sanctioned gender discrimination in this country and a rapidly alternative quasi-legal system which undermines the fundamental principle of one law for all.”

the chasm between the de jure situation and the de facto reality is an abyss into which countless women are falling

Baroness Cox

She noted that this is: “A matter of especial significance as we mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta.”

Baroness Cox stressed that, “the chasm between the de jure situation and the de facto reality is an abyss into which countless women are falling”, and urged the Government to welcome the Bill.

Suffering

Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics show yesterday, the Baroness said that many Muslim women are in touch with her who are “suffering horrendously” under the current provisions.

She noted that Sharia law:

  • Allows a man to divorce his wife by saying I divorce you three times.
  • Permits the existence of polygamous marriages.
  • Leads to domestic violence being condoned because a man is allowed to chastise his wife.
  • Concerns

    While some Sharia councils in Britain operate within the law, there are concerns that others seek to establish a parallel legal system, thought to be the cause of much suffering for women.

    This week, the Government’s new counter-extremism strategy contained a commitment to launch an independent investigation into Sharia councils operating in Britain.

    It says that some women are “unaware of their legal rights to leave violent husbands” and that Sharia law is, in some cases, being “misused and applied in a way which is incompatible with the law”.

    Campaign

    In September, equalandfree.org was launched to speak up for women who have suffered under Sharia law.

    The website includes a number of case studies of Muslim women recounting their experiences.

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