Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Domestic Violence Laws Scrapped in UK

Dealing with domestic violence is a notoriously complicated issue. Victims are often unwilling to testify either because they fear reprisals from their violent partner or the wider community or because they may have internalised the abuse to the point that they genuinely believe they are responsible for it.

In 2005 the CPS announced a major review of policy in the area aimed at combatting these very issues. Under the new guidelines they said "The responsibility for deciding to charge a suspect in all but the most minor cases now rests with the CPS." - a very important measure which meant that a violent partner could be brought to justice even when the victim asked not to press charges. The new policy also stated as follows: "CPS prosecutors are being encouraged to think imaginatively about the charge - perhaps charging for witness intimidation when the defendant pressures their partner to drop the case, false imprisonment when a victim is prevented from leaving their home or sexual charges in forced marriages."

So it appears the CPS believes that cases should be brought to a criminal court even when the victim wants no charge brought. So why are they allowing Muslim perpetrators of domestic violence to move their cases to a British Sharia court which will order only anger management classes and no protection or support whatsoever for the victim?

On the one hand they no doubt feel they are "helping" the Islamic community by allowing these courts to operate as binding "arbitration tribunals" - with their conclusions then enforced by the British Judicial system. Remember that every week in the UK two female victims of domestic violence are murdered by their partners. So what they are actually doing is saying "We don't care about domestic violence when the victim is Muslim, send her back to her family even when her life is at risk".

These legally binding arbitration courts have also ruled that women are entitled to less inheritance than their brothers and are regularly ruling (no doubt in a totally equality-led way?!) on divorce cases. If they were cutting off hands for stealing and stoning murderers in the streets the uproar would be all over the papers, in the streets and in the (proper) law courts. But it's "just" (minority) women's rights so it would appear no-one cares!

(That's me and Catherine Redfern from the F-Word marching at Reclaim The Night last year by the way)

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