One of Britain’s leading voices for women’s rights has authored a report into the abuses and discrimination women face at the hands of sharia courts.
Baroness Cox, an unaffiliated life-peer in the House of Lords authored the report, entitled “A Parallel World: Confronting the abuse of many Muslim women in Britain today.”
The report condemns what it calls "the emergence of a rapidly developing alternative quasi-legal system, which not only promotes systematic gender discrimination, but also undermines the fundamental principle of one law for all."
She published the report on the 23rd March, to coincide with a speech by Home Secretary Theresa May, unveiling of a raft of new measures to counter Islamic extremism in the UK.
These measures included an independent investigation into Sharia courts.
Baroness Cox, a lifelong educator and advocate of women’s rights authored the 39-page report which detailed the various problems arising from the sharia court system in the UK and provided recommendations to the government for how to improve the situation for women.
Her recommendations called for a judge-led review of the sharia court system, which would mean that the review had the legal power to subpoena witnesses and compel them to testify. A previous investigation into the system collapsed in 2011 as sharia courts were unwilling to comply.
She also called for the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill to be reintroduced in the next Parliament. The bill, which she introduced in the previous parliament although not passed, would strengthen the law’s ability to regulate sharia courts and force the courts to comply with anti-discrimination law.
When Baroness Cox initially introduced the bill she said "We cannot sit here complacently in our red and green benches while women are suffering a system which is utterly incompatible with the legal principles upon which this country is founded."
a)Makes it clear in legislation that sex discrimination law applies to arbitration tribunal proceedings.
b)Places a duty on public bodies to ensure that women in polygamous households or those who have had a religious marriage are made aware of their legal position and relevant legal rights under English law.
c)Strengthens court powers to set aside rulings when discrimination has taken place.
d)Strengthens court powers to set aside court orders where there is evidence that consent to the agreement was obtained under duress or by manipulation.
e)Explicitly makes clear in legislation that a victim of domestic abuse is a witness to an offence and therefore should be expressly protected from intimidation.
f) Creates a new criminal offence criminalising any person who purports to legally adjudicate upon matters which ought to be decided by criminal or family courts.