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13 January 2016 0 Comments
Posted in Opinion

Peer backs new laws to end “discriminatory” practices

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An academic study which was presented to Parliament last week has warned that law-makers must take action against “discriminatory religious laws” which may prevent women from ending a marriage.

Researcher Machteld Zee, who has collated a book examining how religious courts operate in the UK, has said that MPs have a responsibility to pass new laws to ensure that women of all faiths have equal access to the option of divorce.

Ms Zee said that while it was important that different faith groups had the freedom to follow their beliefs, there were nonetheless concerns that certain practices contravened a United Nations treaty – the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Her work to raise awareness of the issue has won the backing of Baroness Cox, a crossbench peer who is concerned by some of the decisions being taken by Muslim Sharia courts and Jewish Orthodox Beth Din councils.

She has sponsored legislation which is being drafted with a view to addressing some of the issues that have arisen in recent years. The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) bill is due to complete its first stage in the House of Lords this month and will then move to the Commons to be debated by MPs.

However, some religious leaders are worried that factual inaccuracies about the way their courts and councils work in practice are increasingly being perpetuated.

David Frei, registrar to the London Beth Din, said: “There is a worrying trend that sees anything associated with religion as prejudiced, flying in the face of modern life.

“The key British values of tolerance and mutual respect are essential tenets of Jewish law. As Jews, we are proud citizens, fully integrated within British society and it is a privilege that our rabbinical courts have for over 200 years worked hand in hand with the British legal system.

“Our judges discharge their duties in an independent manner, at all times conscious of the strictures of British law.”

To find out more about the family services we provide, please contact Patrick Hart from our Family Law team today.

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