After fleeing a forced marriage characterised by rape and physical violence, Nasrin applied for an Islamic divorce from a Sharia council; that was almost 10 years ago now. Despite countless emails, letters and telephone calls to the Sharia council as well as joint mediation and reconciliation meetings, the Sharia council refuse to provide Nasrin with an Islamic divorce. Why? Because of Nasrin’s sex. An Imam at the Sharia council told Nasrin that her gender prevents her from unilaterally divorcing her husband, instead the Imam told her to return to her husband, perform her wifely duties and maintain the abusive marriage that she was forced into.
Charlotte Rachael Proudman has represented Muslim women pro bono at Sharia law councils in theUKto obtain Islamic divorces, so she knows how shitty they are for women.
I am all too aware of the gender discriminatory experience many Muslim women suffer at some Sharia councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (‘Sharia law bodies’). Unfortunately their experiences have not been highlighted by the media. Instead some Sharia law bodies have been misrepresented by the media as being transparent, voluntary and operating in accordance with human rights and equality legislation. This is not the case.
As we know, via Maryam and others. Lots of people don’t know, though.
the cost of an Islamic divorce is £400 for a woman compared to £200 for a man at the Islamic Sharia Council inEast London; this is an example of blatant gender discrimination which is incompatible with the Equality Act 2010.
With over 85 Sharia law bodies operating in theUK, the majority of which charge vulnerable and impoverished Muslim women astronomical fees, Sharia law bodies have become successful and lucrative businesses…
Diana Nammi, founder of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation[,] explained that “Sharia law bodies are money-spinning businesses because they afford men more rights than women unlikeUKlaw which is underpinned by a fundamental principle of ‘equality for all’. In most cases women do not receive any practical advice or assistance to help them exit abusive marriages, and instead face further discrimination perpetrated by Sharia ‘judges’”.
And the arrangement is punitive, not to say downright spiteful.
By protracting the time it takes for women to obtain Islamic divorces, Sharia law bodies are punishing women for their failure to maintain miserable marriages, and in Nasrin’s case an abusive forced marriage which was flawed from its incept[ion]. Rather than freeing Muslim women from the shackles of unhappy marriages they are kept in limbo and are expected to mourn their destructive marriages and to reflect on their failures as wives and mothers. Worryingly some Sharia law bodies are growing cynical business enterprises, which use their position of power to maintain unequal gender relations while profiteering on the misery of Muslim women.
Anne-Marie Waters, Spokesperson for One Law for All[,] commented – “the very process employed by Sharia law bodies is gender discriminatory, flawed and incompatible withUKlegislation”. For instance, unlike male divorce applicants, women are requested to bring along two Muslim, male witnesses to corroborate their testimony. I have yet to represent a Muslim woman who is able to comply with this gender discriminatory requirement…
Gender discriminatory and insane – as if marital abuse (or any other abuse) reliably happens in front of witnesses!
I hope a lot of people have read this article.