PROTECTING PREGNANT MIGRANT WOMEN
Recording Ethnicity in medical negligence claims
The Rights of Co-Habiting Partners
MWNUK Co-Chair, Nazmin Akthar, was asked to give oral evidence on Muslim marriages. She provided insights on the issues faced by Muslim women in non-legally binding marriages. She also put forward suggestions on how the rights of Muslim women could be addressed by strengthening co-habitee rights.
The Rights of Co-Habiting Partners
Women's Equality Committee
STRENGTHENING LAWS ON REVENGE PORN
Ministry of Justice
Police Super Complaint
DEFINITION OF HONOUR BASED ABUSE AMENDED
STRENGTHENING THE VICTIM'S CODE
Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Citizenship and Civic Engagement
So Called Honour Based Violence
Forced Marriage Victim Repatriation Fees
A forced marriage victim called the MWN Helpline to complain the she was being charged repatriation fees by the Foreign Office for rescuing her from a forced marriage in Pakistan. The victim was 17 years old at the time of having to sign a loan agreement so she could return to the safety of the UK. The victim now 19 was on benefits and unable to repay the loan. MWNUK wrote to the FCO requesting a policy change not to charge forced marriage victims for their repatriation given they are victims of crime and should not be treated the same as holidaymakers who may need assistance abroad who could insure themselves. MWNUK also questioned the legality of those who are under age being expected to sign loan agreements. The FCO agreed to review their policy and met with MWNUK in March 2017. At the meeting the FCO agreed to abolish repatriation fees for those under the age of 18.
Shariah Councils Inquiry
APPG Home Affairs Select Committee
The Home Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into Sharia
councils operating in the UK. The Committee will examine how
Sharia councils operate in practice, their work resolving family and divorce disputes and their relationship with the British legal system. The evidence session was held at Portcullis House, Westminster on 1 November 2016. Chair, Shaista Gohir and MWNUK member Zlakha Ahmed (CEO of Apna Haq) gave evidence. Shaista put forward a recommendation that the MPs also hold a private session with Muslim women who have used the services of Shariah Councils who have had good experiences and bad experiences to ensure they take balanced evidence. This was agreed to and in December 2016 a separate closed session was held and MWNUK provided women who had direct experiences of using Shariah Councils.
An unprecedented letter was also produced, signed by over 100 Muslim women who wanted the government to strengthen civil law and also want Shariah Councils held accountable but did not want them to be shut down. This letter can be found here:
The written submission to the inquiry can be found here.
Government Independent review into Shariah Councils / Law
Evidence Giving to Panel of Experts
On the 10th August the panel of experts investigating the application of Shariah law and Shariah Council practices visited the MWNUK offices to gather evidence from staff and the Chair. The experts included: Professor Mona Siddiqui, Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE QC, retired high court judge Sir Mark Hedley, and family law barrister Sam Momtaz. The panel was advised by 2 religious and theological experts, Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Imam Qari Asim; they also attended.
The experts launched their report in February 2018 and the problems and recommendations were identical to those in our report, Information and Guidance on Muslim Marriage and Divorce in Britain, that we submitted to the inquiry. We therefore welcome the findings of the report.
Tackling Hate Crimes following Brexit
On the 8th July 2016, MWNUK ED Faeeza Vaid attended a roundatable discussion meeting hosted by Baroness Williams (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DCLG) in Manchester. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the levels of community tension since the EU Referendum result, the government responses, and community responses. The meeting was also attended by others working on anti-Muslim/Semitic hate, racism, and Christian faith leaders.
Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life
The commission, chaired by Dominic Grieve QC MP, brought together 20 Commissioners drawn from a wide cross section of British society to consider how the Muslim community could better engage and participate in public life. The Commission toured the UK and hold hearings in a number of towns and cities. Our Executive Director Faeeza Vaid attended the evidence gathering meeting held in Birmingham on the 23 April 2016 and gave the perspective of MWNUK.
Employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK inquiry
APPG Women and Equalities Committee
The Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee held an Inquiry looking into barriers to employment that exist for Muslims considering Muslims face some of the lowest employment rates and lowest rates of pay of any group and are underrepresented in managerial and professional roles. This inquiry also considered at the prevalence of discrimination against Muslims in the workplace. As well as responding to the inquiry via a written report, Vice Chair Nazmin Akthar also gave oral evidence to the inquiry committee on 19th April 2016.
In addition to reinforcing the key points made in our report, she also highlighted the harm caused my misinformation by people like Trevor Phillips and his survey on Muslim communities that was featured in a Channel 4 documentary, the need to also educate communities and challenge attitudes held about Muslim women working with men and also the barriers faced by Muslim women internally within their communities e.g. by mosques.
Community Engagement Forum
Prime Minister (10 Downing Street)
On the 14th January MWNUK ED Faeeza Vaid attended the Community Engagement roundtable meeting hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron. The purpose of the meeting was to inform government thinking on empowerment of Muslim women including barriers they face such as isolation and their role in tackling extremism and radicalisation. The meeting was also attended by other Muslim women from different organisations and professions.
GENDERED ONLINE ABUSE
Government Equalities Office
On the 21st August MWNUK Chair Shaista Gohir attended a government roundtable meeting to discuss gendered online abuse to inform government future strategic direction. It was hosted by the Government Equalities Office. Some of the other attendees included representatives from the Revenge Porn Helpline, Women's Aid, LGBT consortium, Safer Internet Centre, National Stalking Helpline, Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre and EVAW. Suggestions put forward by MWNUK included heavier sentencing for revenge porn offences that put women and girls at risk of honour based abuse, better use of harassment notices by police for online abuse, and making available online courses for women and girls on online / privacy / safety protection.
Prime Minister (Downing Street)
Shaista Gohir,Chair of MWNUK attended the summit on child sexual exploitation hosted by the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street on 3rd March. Cabinet Ministers from different government departments e.g. Ministry of Justice, Home Office, Local Government & Communities and Education facilitated discussion on what else could be done to tackle this abhorrent crime. A key theme that emerged was everyone whether those in positions of leadership or frontline professionals needed to be more professionally curious and ask questions and not just wait for the victim to disclose abuse. MWNUK was the only BME third sector organisation at the summit.
Women: Media, Sexism and Online Abuse
Government Equalities Office / DCMS
We held an event in partnership with the Government Equalities Office on 14th January 2015, which formed a part of the government's Women's Engagement Programme and was one of a series of regional consultation events with women across the UK. The event focused on the media, sexism and online abuse of women and Jo Swinson MP, the Minister for Women and Equalities spoke at the event and heard about women's concerns directly. Presentations covered the following issues:
- Portrayal of women and sexism in the media
- Portrayal of Muslim women and stereotyping in the media
- Online abuse targeted at women
- Police protection available for women facing online abuse
Photographs from the event may be viewed here.
A short video is available here.
Reporting Police Discrimination
Independent Police Complaints Commission
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) commissioned us to facilitate a discussion on Muslim women's experiences of dealing with the Police, which was held on the 10th December 2014. Discussions also included barriers to complaining, suggestions on what can be done to get more women to complain, and suggestions on what women expect if/when they do complain. We submitted our findings to the IPCC outlining the experiences shared. This was reviewed by the IPCC to help develop new guidance that is meaningful and workable and which will lead to improvements in how both the IPCC and the police handle allegations of discrimination.
A Level / GCSE Reform of Religious Studies
(Govt Dept of Education)
The Department of Education ran a consultation on the revised subject content for GCSE and A level religious studies for first teaching from 2016. MWNUK submitted a letter asking that it is ensured students are not taught patriarchal notions that are at play and are given the ability to critically analyse sources and practices using principles of equality, equity and justice as tools.
Pre-CSW National Consultation
On the 10 November 2014 Executive Director Faeeza Vaid spoke on a panel discussion hosted by the Government Equalities Office, as part of their pre-CSW National Consultation with women. In 1995, at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, 189 governments including the UK pledged their commitment to improve the lives of women and girls by signing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration, the Government Equalities Office wanted to hear what progress is being made by the government to improve the lives of women and girls in the UK. And what future priorities the government should focus on. Fellow panelists included Minister for Women Jo Swinson MP..
Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Family Environment
Office of the Children's Commissioner
Inquiry Panel Member
The Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) launched a two year inquiry into the Child Sexual Abuse in the Family Environment (CSAFE) chaired by the Deputy Children?s Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz. She was supported by a national panel and MWNUK Chair Shaista Gohir was invited to be a member of the panel. Shaista was involved in hearing and scrutinising evidence. The aim if the inquiry was to find out about the scale, scope, nature and impact of child sex abuse. The inquiry also looked into how agencies were dealing with cases of child sexual abuse. Findings will be used to better prevent , identify, protect and support children.
Muslim Marriage Group
Ministry of Justice
2010 to 2015
MWNUK are a member of the Muslim Marriage Group. Meetings are held at theMinistry of Justice every few months and attended by a MWNUK representative (board or staff). Discussions include the importance of civil registration of marriages in ensuring access to rights should a marriage breakdown and whether registering of mosques and individuals would assist more registrations.
Meeting with the Minister for Women
On 2nd July 2014, MWNUK Chair Shaista Gohir was invited to a meeting with the new Minister for Women Nicky Morgan to provide input into policy making. Other attending the meeting included campaigners from Fawcett, Feminista, Object, EVAW and Ms Understood. Issues discussed included: abuse women campaigners are subjected to; need to influence the Department of Education on issues related to girls and women; gender budgeting; sexual harassment in schools; and Ministers limiting vocal public support to particular topic affecting minorities (e.g. forced marriage, FGM) or issues affecting women abroad (e.g. sexual violence in conflict and FGM). Concerns were raised that Ministers are not equally as vocal on sexual violence and domestic violence, although Teresa May was commended for her initiatives in the Home Office.
Developing Social Care Guidlelines for FGM
National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)
MWNUK participated in roundtable discussion to inform potential NICE public health clinical and social care guidelines for FGM and helped to identify priority areas.
Barriers to Complaining About Public Services
Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman
The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsmen (PHSO) commissioned us to find out why very low numbers of Muslim women complain about public services, bodies and departments. Three focus groups were held in Birmingham, Manchester and London . We explored the barriers which included: not being aware of the complaint process, fear of not being taken seriously and challenging authority, language barriers, feeling it will not make a difference, lack of confidence, accepting the bad service due to culture (e.g. acceptance and suffering in silence), the process taking too long etc. One of the participants in Manchester Saira Mirza interviewed another two participants on the Awaaz Community Radio Station about their views. You can hear the discussionhere. PHSO has used the findings to launch a national awareness raising campaign and produce a range of materials including posters and leaflets in different languages.
To find out more and request materials please visit the PHSO website.
Religious Leaders Unite Against FGM
Roundtable Meeting and Letter
On 18th June 2014, the Home Office organised a meeting to discuss the role of faith leaders and institutions in tackling FGM which was hosted by a number of Minsters including Norman Baker, Minister for Crime Prevention . MWNUK Coordinator and Chaplain Shahin Ashraf attended the event. Religious and community leaders have also signed a historic declaration condemning female genital mutilation. MWNUK is also a signatory and this was highlighted in a Guardian article here.
STRENGTHENING SENTENCING GUIDELINES FOR CHILD ABUSE
Crown Prosecution Service
The Crown Prosecution Service set out 'Interim Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Abuse,' which were opened for public consultation until September 2013. These guidelines made very little mention of Black, Asian and minority ethnic victims. In light of our research, UNHEARD VOICES: Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women, we responded to the consultations and raised concerns and made recommendations such as how shame and honour is used to prevent victims from reporting sexual abuse. Following our input, we were pleased to see that in April 2014, changes in sentencing guidelines for sexual abuse included considering increasing sentences for situation where 'threats of exposure' to family or others is used as a further means of controlling victims.
Letter to Attorney General
Ministry of Justice
On the 20th March MWNUK wrote an open letter to the Attorney General requesting that the sentence given to Suleman Maknojioa, the Quran teacher from Blackburn who abused a young girl be reviewed. Mainstream media covered the story too, and MWNUK are awaiting the decision as to whether it will be appealed. We commend the family of this victim for being brave and standing publicly for justice.
You can view the letter here.
WOMEN AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC GROWTH
Department of Culture, Media and Sport
On the 10th January 2014, Vice-Chair Nazmin Akthar attended a roundtable hosted by the Minister for Women to provide policy input on behalf of MWNUK particularly on how Muslim women are affected and about their needs. The discussions included looking at women and socio economic growth in terms of identifying barriers to women's progression in employment across the equality strands including: race, social economic, gender, single parent, disability, child care and potential solutions.
Roundtable Discussion with Shadow Minister
(Labour Party Shadow Minister for Women Gloria De Piero)
When MWNUK found out that Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Gloria De Piero MP and Yasmin Quereshi MP were doing a listerning roadshow around the country, we arranged a meeting in Birmingham on the 11th January 2014 for them to hear directly from Muslim women. The women spoke openly about the issues affecting them. Topics included corruption in local politics, childcare, discrimination and much more.
Improving Safeguarding of Muslim Children
2010 to 2013
MWNUK were members of the NSPCC National Muslim Advisory Group and helped to find ways to improve safeguarding of Muslim children. Many different issues are discussed including abuse of disabled children and abuse in Madrassahs.
Domestic & Sexual Violence Inquiry
All Party Parliamentary Group
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence held an Inquiry into Justice for Women Survivors of Violence. MWNUK was invited to give evidence. Our Vice Chair Nazmin Akthar represented us in the oral evidence session on 27 November 2013. Thank you to MWNUK members who contributed views for the inquiry particularly BME women's experiences of the criminal justice system.
Non Registration of Marriages
Ministry of Justice
Many Muslim women who have Muslim marriages (nikahs) in Britain do not also have their marriages formally registered under British law. This of course has many negative repercussions for women if the marriage breaks down. The Ministry of Justice are exploring the non registration of marriages and partnered with MWNUK to hold a consultation event in Blackburn, which was hosted by the MWNUK General Secretary Mussurut Zia. The event was attended by 40 local women, local registrars and the super intendant registrar.
CSW Discussion with Minister for Women
Several women's organisations, including MWNUK were invited to attend a meeting with Maria Miller MP, Minister for Women and Equalities. Some of other organisations attending included:Women's Resource Centre, Women's Aid, Imkaan, UN Women (UK), Forward, and NAWO. The outcomes of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) event held at the United Nations (4-15 March) were discussed along with how these could be promoted domestically and internationally. The main outcome included ensuring that the CSW agreements need to be simplified and cascaded to civil society organisation, so they can start holding their governments accountable.
Body Image Discussion with Minister for Women
Jo Swinson MP (Minister for Women and Equality) invited five women for a private roundtable discussion, including Shaista Gohir to represent MWNUK. Other women's groups represented included:Girl Guiding, Feminista, Object and Imkaan. Issues discussed included: female genital mutilation, labioplasty, body image, portrayal of women in advertising, film and media, impact of pornography, attitudes of men and boys and the role education / schools can play in changing attitudes.
IMMIGRATION AND EDUCATION
Politicians from the Shadow Cabinet, Yvette Cooper MP (Shadow Home Secretary) and Shabana Mahmood MP visited MWNUK offices where we arranged for them to speak to Birmingham Muslim women who shared their views on immigration and education.
Government Engaging with Women Consultation
Government Equalities Office
The Women's National Commission (WNC), which
was the official, independent advisory body giving views of women to government was closed on 31st December 2010. The Governmentt Equalities Office (GEO), therefore took some of the functions of WNC over centrally and prepared a consultation exercise to engage with women across the UK in 2011. Rather than wait to be consulted, Muslim Women's Network UK, in partnership with the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick contacted GEO to arrange a national roundtable discussion with Muslim women. This was held on 29th November 2010 and 14 Muslim women from around the UK from diverse ethnic backgrounds and diverse fields of work
participated. This resulted in the report, Muslim Women:
Political and Civic Engagement in the UK.
The detailed version of report can be found here.
The summary version can be found here.
Jess Phillips MP
MWNUK is courageous because of the uncompromising and fearless positions it sometimes takes when calling out injustice and inequality
I am proud to support and champion this fantastic organisation, which is informing policy and transforming lives.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
MWNUK’s authenticity comes from knowledge of lived experiences of Muslim women and girls acquired through their helpline, research and members.
Naz Shah MP
They work tirelessly with passion and commitment to make a difference and improve outcomes for some of the most vulnerable women and girls in society.
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimiu
Lawyer, Political & Women's Rights Activist
There is no greater time than now for the voices, representation and power of Muslim women to be visible in the feminist movement and all walks of life. MWNUK is a vital force in delivering this much needed balance and representation.