by Pragna Patel
“We oppose any religious body – whether presided over by men or women – that seeks to rule over us.” So say more than 300 mostly Muslim women, but also others from different faiths who have been abused in their personal lives. These women are voicing their alarm, through a powerful statement published by Open Democracy, about the growing power of religious bodies such as sharia councils, and demand that their voices also be heard in the current debate.
From their own lived experiences, they warn against any attempt to normalise profoundly regressive religious codes of conduct as the basis of social interaction with, and policy development aimed at, minority women. They do so against the backdrop of Louise Casey’s report that warns of minority women who are trapped in abuse and isolation, and two ongoing inquiries into sharia councils: one initiated by the government and the other by the home affairs select committee.
The signatories to the statement have witnessed, experienced or fled from the horrors and degradations of “honour” killings, domestic violence, child and ritual abuse, forced marriage, polygamy, rape and sexual assaults. They speak out against religious impositions that exacerbate their daily struggles to live their lives as they choose. They reject the forces of fundamentalism and patriarchy that seek to divide and govern through surveillance and control of female sexuality.
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