The review into Sharia councils announced last week by home secretary Theresa May is long overdue.
Among other organisations, the Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) has helped several women who have been subjected to gruelling hearings where they are sometimes told to reconcile with their husbands despite suffering violent abuse.
Some of the women have been left by their partners who have gone on to re-marry. So the women are left fight- ing to get a divorce because the sys- tem favours men
Couples should be encouraged to register their marriage, which is en- shrined in British law, as well as hav- ing a religious nikah ceremony to pro- vide protection to women, should they seek a divorce further down the line. This would also enable them to access rights to property and other assets should anything untoward happen to their spouse.
The review will examine whether decisions taken by Sharia councils dis- criminate against women .
A study carried out by MWNUK fea- tures several case studies which reveal that this, indeed, takes place on a reg- ular basis.
The challenge for the panel will be to get accounts from those who have been unfairly treated under the Sharia system – assuring them that their evi- dence and experiences will be taken seriously while being sensitive to the community’s traditions.
The panel will return with a set of recommendations following the inves- tigation. It is the hope that it will prompt a robust debate about wheth- er Sharia councils can co-exist within the mainstream legal system in mod- ern-day Britain.