A Home Office review of Sharia councils in the UK has advised that Muslim couples marrying in the UK should pursue a civil marriage as well as an Islamic marriage, so that women’s rights are always protected under English law.
The independent review, which was led by Professor Mona Siddiqui, set out to investigate whether Sharia law was being misused by councils.
It found that “discriminatory” and “bad practices” were present, but that abolishing such practices was “not viable” as they were “fulfilling a need” in many Muslim communities across the country.
The report also found that the councils were proving beneficial in reporting instances of family violence to police.
The review, which was initially commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary in 2016, concluded that Sharia marriages should be recognised under English law.
It said that Muslim couples in the UK who choose to tie the knot should be required to register their marriages in a civil ceremony – and that fines should be handed out to those who do not.
The recommendations come amid concerns that the number of Muslim couples failing to register their marriages in this way is “high and increasing.”
The review stated: “By linking Islamic marriage to civil marriage it ensures that a greater number of women will have the full protection afforded to them in family law and they will face less discriminatory practices.”
According to reports, the Home Office is hoping that the Marriage Act can be amended in the near future in order to enshrine its recommendations in English law.
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