There are widespread press reports that the Government is to publish a Green Paper today on its integrated community strategy which, inter alia, will tackle the perceived problem of unregistered nikah weddings.
The proposal comes after a report on integration by former civil servant Dame Louise Casey, who argued that sharia law was being used to marginalise Muslim women, especially in Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities.
A recent review chaired by Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, concluded that 100,000 Muslim women had had sharia ceremonies and were not legally married and said that there was strong support within the Muslim community for civil registration of marriages. Dame Louise’s report was also critical of the operation of sharia councils.
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, told The Guardian that the Government intended to consult on changing the marriage laws to make it illegal to have a religious marriage that had not been preceded by a civil marriage, amid evidence of men in some Muslim communities using unofficial ceremonies to have more than one wife.
We shall report on the details of the Green Paper when it appears. (It should also be noted that marriage law is a devolved responsibility and, presumably, any proposals will apply to England and Wales only.)