Independent review of Sharia law recommends civil registration of Islamic marriages

An independent review chaired by Professor Mona Siddiqui OBE of the University of Edinburgh has recommended that Islamic marriages involving Muslim couples in England and Wales should be civilly registered.

The report also recommends that existing marriage legislation should be amended to make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to register their marriage before or at the same time as their Islamic ceremony, and that by doing so would bring ‘Islamic marriage in line with Christian and Jewish marriage in the eyes of the law’.

The report’s authors feel that these recommendations will help to ‘reduce discrimination and offer possible ways forward to help Muslim women gain greater confidence and agency over their lives’.

At present there is no requirement in law for Muslim couples to civilly register their Islamic marriage. On the breakdown of a marriage this can cause serious difficulties especially for the financially weaker party. Islamic marriages in England and Wales where couples do not go on to have a civil registration are not treated as legal marriages at all. Because of this couples cannot benefit from financial orders made by the courts on a divorce.

The report recommends a change in the law and concludes that by linking Islamic marriage to civil marriage this would ensure ‘that a greater number of women [would] have the full protection afforded to them in family law and the right to a civil divorce, lessening the need to attend and simplifying the decision process of sharia councils.’

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