British women ‘being forced into polygamous relationships’ because law lets them down, campaigners say


UK High court. Suggested reading: Polygamy in Islam: What It Means?

Source: Independent

‘The government is always perfectly happy to relegate minority women to kangaroo courts and faith-based parallel legal systems’

By Maya Oppenheim, @mayaoppenheim

Women are being left to go through religious courts which make rulings that force them to stay with their partners even when they are unhappy, or rule them unable to claim money or property from their de-facto husbands after marriages dissolve ( Getty )

British women are increasingly being pressured into polygamous relationships or left without child support when relationships break up because UK law does not offer adequate protection to spouses in religious marriages, campaigners have warned.

Activists say there is a growing problem of men “marrying” women in religious ceremonies but refusing to legally register the unions – and subsequently avoiding the financial and other duties owed to a spouse.

Women are being left to go through religious courts, which make rulings that force them to stay with their partners even when they are unhappy, or rule them unable to claim money or property from their de facto husbands after marriages dissolve.

The warnings come after the government intervened via the attorney general in a landmark case last week in an attempt to overturn a family court judge’s decision that a woman was entitled to apply for maintenance payments despite the fact they were not legally married.

Nasreen Akhter had a nikah, which is an Islamic marriage ceremony, that led to a Muslim marriage contract between herself and Mohammed Khan.

The couple, who were married for 18 years and have four children together, were deemed to be married in the UK and the United Arab Emirates, where they lived from 2005 to 2011, for tax reasons and other purposes.

Ms Akhter, a 47-year-old solicitor, said she was keen to have a civil marriage and presumed they would do so, but her husband refused. She alleges their relationship dissolved after he said he wanted to take another wife.

Read more:

Suggested reading

Polygamy in Islam: What It Means?

In Defense of the Secular Narrative of the Holy Quran

India’s Muslim women fight to end triple talaq law that yields instant divorce

9 replies

  1. Religious courts are a serious injustice to the women. No religion provides equal rights to women. If women are left at the mercy of religious courts, justice will be denied to them. There should be only one law for all. No sub systems!

    • It should be the duty of the religious courts, or the Imams who are performing the marriages, to inform the couple, and especially the women, what rights they have under Islamic law AND common law. For this purpose however these Imams would need some relevant training. For instance if the first wife, married under common law also, gets a pension benefit then the husband should make arrangement that the second wife should get something equal to that. Etc. Same for the children. We have to make sure that their rights are protected.

  2. Education for men and women is of equal importance. Both men and women should be given enough knowledge about the marital affairs before they get married. They should be aware of their rights they hold towards their marriage. Additionally, the law should find some common grounds in accordance with the religious bond of marriage so that both parties could be heard and treated substantively in critical cases, such as divorce, child support and alimony.

  3. Marriage is a sacred institution in Islam with very important objectives. In most cases, the objective is achieved through monogamy. However, in certain situations, a man is allowed to marry more than one wife, with the condition that he treats his wives with justice, and takes the decision with Taqwa or God Consciousness.

    The idea that Islam allows polygamy so that men could pursue lust and as an excuse to fulfill sensual desires is a far cry from what Islam actually wishes to achieve.

  4. Laws that do not protect people’s rights and destroy peace of individuals or society as a whole, cannot be right and must be reconsidered and reformed to provide justice to all individuals involved, as much as possible.

  5. @AB
    People defending polygamy forget that it is only a permission and comes with restrictions and regulations. I am unaware of any Muslim country or court instituting these regulations and restrictions in practice. Actions speak louder than words. Polygamy is practiced by older and richer men. So mostly it is for lust rather than other “Noble” causes. In the present day it is illegal and un-islamic to practice polygamy as it is outlawed by many countries of the world.

    • to have multiple partners is not outlawed in the ‘modern’ world. To have an additional wife instead of ‘just another partner’ gives her at least some recognition and respect.

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