Below is One Law for All’s Statement on High Court Beth Din Case:
A High Court judge in London last week approved the decision of a Beth Din Council in New York.
The anonymous couple were in dispute over access to children and asked the High Court judge to agree to allow them to refer their case to the Beth Din Council in New York. In agreeing to allow this, the judge referred to a speech by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in which he described the adoption of sharia in family matters as “inevitable”.
Mr Justice Baker said: “The outcome was in keeping with English law, whilst achieved by a process rooted in Jewish culture to which the families belong.” He also stipulated that the husband must give his wife a Get – a Jewish divorce. The power to grant a Get is in the husband’s hands only and represents yet another example of anti-woman gender discrimination inherent in religious legal systems. Given that the power of divorce rests with the husband only, Mr Justice Baker should have recognised that this is not in keeping with English law – it is entirely discriminatory.
A Telegraph report stated that ‘The judge approved the Get given by the New York Beth Din after establishing that it would be accepted by all rabbinical courts and orthodox synagogues around the world’. In effect, this means that if a ruling is acceptable to religion, it is therefore acceptable in law.
This ruling sets a dangerous precedence which places religious misogyny in high esteem. At a time when international human rights law is increasingly recognising and opposing the anti human rights rhetoric put forward by many religious authorities, the UK High Court should be following suit and not going in a backwards direction by adhering to religious laws.
Gender discrimination is wrong – both in law and in natural justice – and this remains the case whether it is reinforced by religion or agreed to by the person being discriminated against. People are free to live their lives as they wish, but the state should not under any circumstances give credence or credibility to gender discrimination, or adopt it in to law.
One Law for All reiterates that a single secular and human rights based legal system must be adhered to in order to protect the rights of the religious and non-religious alike.