On Tuesday 13th January 2015, women’s rights groups, including Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All, Nari Diganta and the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), met with Mark Stobbs, the Law Society’s Director of Legal Policy at the SBS office. Our organisations welcomed the Law Society’s decision to withdraw its guidance on ‘Sharia’ compliant wills that endorsed discrimination against women and children. We also thanked the Law Society for making a public apology. The Law Society showed that it had listened to the voices of BME women’s rights campaigners and other secular organisations that had been alarmed by the original decision.
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) condemn the Law Society’s recent guidelines for ‘Shari’a-compliant’ wills in the UK, which make provision for gender-discriminatory inheritance practices. The Law Society’s practice note includes the following points:
“... No distinction is made between children of different marriages, but illegitimate and adopted children are not Shari’a heirs.”
“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Shari’a heir”.
Clearly, inheritance conducted in this manner discriminates on the basis of gender. When inheritance follows these lines, economic violence against women becomes viable – financial assets follow the male line and women, even if they have previously invested in property for example, can become impoverished as assets are handed to male heirs. In this sense, the guidelines offer a mandate for the financial abuse of women and their children. Such inheritance practices also blatantly discriminate against ‘illegitimate’ and adopted children.