Religious Arbitration and Women’s Rights – a meeting for BME women in Manchester Manchester Metropolitan University, 2pm-5pm, 19th October 2016.

An unprecedented number of BME women’s rights organisations and campaigners signed an open letter to Theresa May warning against the rapid slide towards privatised justice and parallel legal systems in the UK –

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and Safety 4 Sisters are holding a public meeting to discuss the role of religious-based arbitration and mediation forums, such as Sharia councils, as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to govern private and family matters. Are they gaining power and significance as parallel legal systems in which women are treated unfairly?

SBS campaigns on women’s rights, racism and religious fundamentalism. However, the achievements of SBS and other BME women’ groups in relation to state accountability and protection for victims of all forms of gender-related abuse and women’s human rights, are now under serious threat from the rise of religious identity politics fueled by religious fundamentalism. This undermines the very principles of equality, justice and the universality of human rights, upon which the BME women’s movement was founded.

Some of the questions that we hope to address at the meeting include:

  • Where did the demand for religious arbitration in family matters come from?
  • What are the injustices faced by women who engage with religious arbitration forums?
  • Are BME women really exercising ‘choice’ when they take part in these forums?
  • Is legal pluralism the answer to BME women’s lack of access to justice and inequality?
  • How can we best protect the rights of all women?
  • Is regulation of religious arbitration in family matters viable or even desirable?
  • How does the demand for freedom to religion impact on our struggles for freedom from religious and patriarchal imposition?
  • What are the links between extremism and fundamentalism?

 Speakers include: Survivors of domestic violence and religious abuse of power, Sandhya Sharma, Gita Sahgal, Pragna Patel, Yasmin Rehman and Maryam Namazie.


Date: Wednesday 19 October 2016

Time: 2-5 pm (Registration at 1.30pm)

Venue: Room 1.25

Manchester Metropolitan University

Business School

Oxford Road


M15 6BH.

RSVP: and

Priority will be given to BME women led organisations/those working mainly with BME women


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