The other point which I must remind readers about is that bigamy or polygamy in the UK is actually an offence, although you may argue that if a man marries one woman by way of Nikah and Registry and a second wife by way of Nikah only, there is no polygamy in the eyes of English law. While that may be true, it is here that we approach the main issue - the inequality and injustice suffered by these women who are taken on as ‘second wives’. Quite often, the first wife does not know, and quite often, the second wife is brought into the UK and married here secretly which means firstly, they have none of the rights a married couple can expect to have and secondly, due to the clandestine nature of the whole marriage, she is often neglected and forced to live life as a second class citizen, not to mention the burden on the state in supporting her thorough benefits and housing.
So what is the answer to this problem? What should Muslims do?
Well, the simple answer is that there must be a concerted effort within our communities to educate Muslims that whenever they get married, as well as the Nikah they should also have the Registry ceremony performed. Unfortunately, at this moment in time, both of these things have to be done separately with only a few mosques in the UK registered to perform both Islamic Nikah and civil Registry marriages.
There must also be a change in the legislation so that the Marriage Act 1949 is updated to recognise Islamic Nikah and give Muslim married couples the full protection of the law.
On 26 June 2014, I was fortunate enough to be invited by my trusted colleague and mentor, Aina Khan, family solicitor and Head of the Islamic Department at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, to a round table meeting at the House of Lords to discuss unregistered marriages in minority faith groups. Aina has been working hard on this issue with the final aim of changing the law so that there is equality in all registered marriages, especially concerning marriages in minority faith groups.
We at Stradbrokes Solicitors are behind this project and will be doing whatever we can to drive this forward. Keep following my weekly blog for more details on this including a survey coming soon to collect data on this issue. Aina has also planned eight road shows and I will give you more details of them as soon as I know.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been reproduced here with permission of the copyright owner.
The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.