Webinar: Religion, Marriage and Minority Women’s Rights in Family Law
SBS and One Law for All Webinar on Religion, Marriage and Minority Women’s Rights in Family Law
28 January 2021 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Speakers will include: One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Gita Sahgal, Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel, Survivor of domestic abuse and a religious-only marriage Uzma and Women’s Rights Campaigner Yasmin Rehman. There will also be a video message from Activist Yehudis Fletcher. The webinar will be chaired by One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Maryam Namazie and will discuss how the law as it stands does not recognise the experiences of many minority women who are abused, deceived or coerced into having religious marriages only. It will also call for a law that requires all religious marriages to be registered and for a religious marriage to be deemed void where women are coerced, deceived or threatened into only having a religious marriage.
Please register for the event here and share with your networks.
Current Laws on Marriage
The law as it stands does not recognise the experiences of many minority women who are abused, deceived or coerced into having religious marriages only. This means that if the marriage is not registered and breaks down, women are left without financial rights or legal remedies. This is a profoundly discriminatory outcome for minority, especially Muslim women. Christian women in a similar situation are able to have their marriages declared ‘void’, and thus have access to financial remedies from the courts, but women who have married in other religious systems, do not have the same access. Unregistered marriages also have other harmful consequences; they have led to a rise in polygamy and violence against women.
A recent Court of Appeal case rightly decided that English courts should not recognise religious marriages, however, by refusing to consider such marriages as void, the Court prevented minority women from gaining much needed access to legal remedies without which they cannot survive abuse and live independently. Alarmingly, it also makes women dependent on profoundly discriminatory and misogynistic religious arbitration forums for a resolution in the event of a marriage breakdown even though such forums work against women’s rights and expose them to the risk of further abuse.
This makes changes in marriage law essential in order to stop women being locked in abuse and denied access to justice. It is vital that we end such discrimination and uphold the principle of gender equality.
We call for a law that requires all religious marriages to be registered and for a religious marriage to be deemed void where women are coerced, deceived or threatened into only having a religious marriage.