Bill to tackle Sharia will help curb anti-women prejudice

A Bill to tackle problems caused by Sharia councils operating in the UK will help prevent discrimination against women, a House of Lords Peer has told the BBC.

Listen to Baroness Cox talk about the Bill

Baroness Caroline Cox introduced her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill to the House of Lords earlier this year.

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.

Speaking to Aled Jones on BBC Radio 2 Baroness Cox warned of a “growing use” of Sharia councils in the UK.

And she cautioned that they “inherently discriminate against women”.


Baroness Cox also said many people had spoken to her with stories of “very serious” discrimination.

She cautioned that, under Sharia, men “can divorce their wives extremely easily, for women it’s very hard”.

In July a top advocate for Muslim women’s rights backed Lady Cox’s Bill.


Cassandra Balchin, co-founder and Chair of the Muslim Women’s Network-UK, said that in her work with Muslim women, she had found “anecdotal evidence of gender discriminatory arbitration”.

She also said that the Bill’s provisions, if made law, would probably increase pressure on the Sharia councils to improve their practice and actively clarify for their clients that their decisions have no legal weight, before they initiate mediation.

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