A Bill seeking to restrain the operation of sharia councils has been passed by the House of Lords, but the Peer who introduced it says there is “still a long way to go”.
Baroness Cox, a Patron of The Christian Institute, introduced the Bill and has received support for the plans from Muslim women’s groups.
Describing the occasion as an “important milestone” for victims, Baroness Cox said she hoped the Government would now be more supportive of the proposals.
The Government confirmed that it would launch an inquiry into sharia councils last year, amid concerns that women are failing to be protected from violent husbands.
Yesterday the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, which covers England and Wales, passed its Third Reading.
However, its First Reading in the House of Commons is yet to be scheduled and the BBC has indicated that the Bill has “little chance” of being discussed or passed by MPs.
Baroness Cox welcomed the Lords’ action on the Bill – which seeks to protect victims of “religiously-sanctioned gender discrimination” in sharia courts.
She commented: “While there is still a long way to go, it is clear that Parliament is beginning to take their concerns seriously.
“My Private Member’s Bill isn’t very complicated. It simply seeks to tackle gender discrimination in arbitration proceedings, informal mediations or pseudo-courts.
“It ensures that Muslim women have genuine access to knowledge concerning their rights.”
She explained that she had been “immensely encouraged by the strength of support from across the House of Lords”, as well as from “Muslim women’s groups and organisations concerned with the suffering of vulnerable women”.
She added: “Let’s hope, with the Bill now moving to the Commons, the Government will look more favourably upon it.”
“Not only will it complement their forthcoming inquiry into Sharia courts, but it will also help reach those who might otherwise suffer abuse.”