"Faith-based arbitration, where people agree to settle disputes in by the judgement of a religious figure is a highly problematic form of privatising law: using laws which are not publicly enacted, in forums which are not monitored, with no right of appeal, often within environments where women's rights are routinely subordinated to traditional and patriarchal cultures and beliefs which threaten the welfare of women and children.
Arbitration is an acitivity which should be entered into willingly: yet the ability to make an independent choices within a relationship is based in equality in social and economic choices, which is rare in society generally, is even rarer amongst those who cleave to traditional gender roles. Some women face violence for resisting pressures put on them in the name of religion or culture; many others face rejection from the family or community, isolation, financial hardships and other pressures.
The rights of equality between men and women, gay and straight, the rights to divorce and child custody on equal terms, and the criminalisation of domestic violence and marital rape have been hard-fought for by human rights activists over centuries, and continue to be fought for across the world. It is a deeply backward step for human rights to withdraw rights from the weakest and most powerless sectors of society. Women's, and children's, powerlessness will be legitimized and enforced, codified into law.
Given the central role of family in most societies, religious elites seek to strengthen their control and influence over their communities by controlling family relationships. Religious laws—especially in family matters—have long been a battleground. For many women, the family is the source of patriarchal oppression, and those forces which seek to normalise religious interference into private life are often the same ones which seek the control of women and girls.
Fundamentalism in all major religions involves similar views on gender relations and sexuality. Among other things, it seeks to establish and strengthen male-dominated control over the family and restrict women's sexual and social freedoms. Recognising a right for religious figures to intervene in family affairs priveleges the fundamentalist forces by definition, strengthening the worldwide growth of fundamentalism, and eroding women's hard won rights.
We ask our political representatives to respect and protect women’s constitutionally and internationally protected human rights by ensuring access to a single, uniform family law regime. Equally, we ask that religious freedoms of the majority not be confined to the interpretation of a limited few."
Middle-eastern women's campaign against faith-based arbitration and sharia law
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