New Bill tackles Sharia courts
Wed, 8 Jun 2011
A new Bill has been introduced to Parliament to tackle the problem of Sharia courts in England and Wales.
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Under the Bill, it will become a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to falsely claim legal jurisdiction over criminal or family law.
The Bill makes clear that laws against sex discrimination apply to arbitration tribunals, firmly outlawing the Sharia practice of treating a woman’s testimony as worth half that of a man’s.
The Bill was introduced to Parliament yesterday by Baroness Cox.
Lady Cox said: “Equality under the law is a core value of British justice. My Bill seeks to preserve that standard.
“I have no desire to interfere in the internal theological affairs of religious groups, and my Bill does not do that.
“My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or ‘quasi-legal’, systems taking root in our nation. Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for our English courts alone.
“Through these proposals, I want to make it perfectly clear in the law that discrimination against women shall not be allowed within arbitration.
“I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Muslim women by Sharia courts. We must do all that we can to make sure they are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness.”
Lady Cox added: “Many women say, ‘we came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here’.”
The Bill is supported by a wide range of groups, including The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society.
The Institute’s Simon Calvert said the Bill is timely. He said: “The rise of Sharia courts in our nation is something that concerns a lot of people.
“Justice and equality under the law are precious values that we should not take for granted. This Bill is timely and it is welcome.”
Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said that under this Bill arbitration tribunals “would not be able to determine family or criminal matters nor agreements that are discriminatory against women.”
He added: “This Bill aims once more to give every citizen equal protection by the same just law – one law for all.”