Religious Tribunals, Religious Freedom, and Concern for Vulnerable Women
Child and Family Law Quarterly, Forthcoming
26 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2012 Last revised: 17 Jun 2013
Date Written: November 20, 2012
For the most part current UK law does not interfere with the operation of religious tribunals. The role of religious tribunals in family matters in the United Kingdom is, however, fiercely debated. While many considerations are at play in these debates, two are often set up against each other. Religious freedom is often given, on the one hand, as a reason not to interfere with religious tribunals. On the other hand, however, concern for the vulnerable – especially women in religious groups – is thought to weigh in favour of greater interference. This article evaluates the current legal response to religious tribunals in the UK in the context of family matters against these two key values. It also clarifies and expands on how religious tribunals can both harm and enhance these values. It finds that contrary to the way the debate is often presented, religious tribunals can harm religious freedom while, at the same time, they can also enhance the welfare of vulnerable persons.
Keywords: religious tribunals, religious arbitration, Sharia councils, Beth Din, religious freedom
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By Gwynn Davis