The Council of Europe urges the UK to ensure Shari'a councils operate within the law

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has urged the British authorities in a resolution to assess the activities of Shari'a councils in the UK, which might discriminated against women.

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The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has warned against the «judicial» activities of «Shari'a councils» in the United Kingdom, reports legal platform Scottish Legal.

In a resolution adopted on Tuesday the 22th of January, the Parliamentary Assembly stressed that Shari'a councils «attempt to provide a form of alternative dispute resolution, whereby members of the Muslim community, sometimes voluntarily, often under considerable social pressure, accept their religious jurisdiction mainly in marital and Islamic divorce issues, but also in matters relating to inheritance and Islamic commercial contracts.»

The assembly believes that «Shari'a law decisions clearly discriminate against women in divorce and inheritance cases».

Made up of 47 states, the Parliamentary Assembly put a series of recommendations «to ensure that Shari'a councils act in accordance with the law, particularly as regards the prohibition of discrimination against women, and respect all procedural rights», and also to «review the Marriage Act to impose on Muslim couples the legal obligation to register their marriage civilly before or at the same time as their Islamic ceremony, as already provided for by the Christians and Jews Marriage Act».

Abolishing Shari’a councils in the UK is not a solution

British parliamentarians are also called to «remove the barriers to Muslim women’s access to justice and step up measures to provide protection and assistance to those who are in a situation of vulnerability».

Moreover, they are invited to write a report on the actions undertaken in the wake of these recommendations by June 2020.

The British authorities have, however, already addressed this issue. In February 2018, a report conducted by experts commissioned by the British Home Office concluded that Muslims in the United Kingdom should marry civilly and religiously to ensure that women are protected by the law, according to the Independent.

A measure deemed necessary to reduce «discriminatory practices» in Shari'a councils. Nevertheless, experts felt that the abolition of these religious bodies was «unsustainable» and that, on the contrary, they «[meet] the needs of certain Muslim communities». 

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