A Peer is calling for a judge-led inquiry into Sharia courts, in a revealing new report on discrimination against Muslim women across Britain.
In the report, Baroness Cox also outlines the provisions of her Private Members’ Bill, which would curb the growth of quasi-legal systems such as Sharia courts, in England and Wales.
She is seeking to re-introduce the Bill in the next session of Parliament.
Her report, published by conservative think-tank The Bow Group, refers to Sharia court policies on inheritance, polygamy, access to divorce and domestic violence that have adversely affected British Muslim women.
The report includes testimonies from women who have been subjected to various forms of abuse, including one woman who said: “I feel betrayed by Britain. I came here to get away from this and the situation is worse here than in the country I escaped from”.
According to the report, many Muslim women can be left unaware of their legal rights or feel under pressure not to seek professional help that could bring ‘shame’ or ‘dishonour’ on their families or communities.
Baroness Cox said: “We cannot continue with the present situation where vulnerable women are suffering from coercion, intimidation or unfairness.”
She welcomed Theresa May’s commitment to conduct an “independent review” of Sharia courts, but warned “it is imperative that such measures are not so broadly defined that they catch innocent behaviour or impact on people’s religious liberties”.
Instead, she is calling for an independent judge-led inquiry into Sharia courts.
“It will by no means be able to address all of the complex and sensitive issues involved, but it does offer an important opportunity to ascertain the scale of suffering endured by women in our country today”, she explained.
Writing on the Conservative Home website, Baroness Cox said her Private Members’ Bill “already has strong support from across the political spectrum in the House of Lords as well as from Muslim women’s groups and other organisations concerned with the suffering of vulnerable women”.