Religious-Only Marriages in the UK

Legal Positionings and Muslim Women’s Experiences

In: Sociology of Islam

Non-state-registered Muslim marriages are often considered as a poor alternative to civil marriage, accepted by vulnerable or ill-informed Muslim women. Problematizing such marriages is based on the assumption that entering into a civil marriage (in addition to or as an alternative to the Muslim marriage) is beneficial for all Muslim women. Listening to the narratives of the women concerned reveals a wide range of opinions, including those that prefer to enter into religious-only marriages. Solutions to the problems presented by unregistered religious-only marriages have thus far been proposed in a manner that reflects a discourse that considers unregistered marriages as somehow conceptually problematic. However, in so far as English law is concerned, the legal position of Muslims who enter into non-state-registered marriages is no different from that of cohabitees, who live together without the ‘protection’ of a civil marriage. Therefore, it may be worth considering whether the issue at stake is reconsidering family law and laws concerning cohabitation, rather than a separate set of rules and regulations for Muslims.

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