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DMU research into unregistered marriages used in C4 documentary

A De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic’s research into unregistered marriages has played a part in a Channel 4 programme.

Dr Rajnaara Akhtar, senior lecturer in Law at DMU, was interviewed about her research for ‘The Truth About Muslim Marriage’, broadcasting at 10pm on Channel 4 tonight.

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The documentary features a survey of over 900 Muslim women which has provided ground-breaking information about the marriage practices of an extremely difficult to reach part of the population.

Dr Akhtar believes that this is a hugely important issue and hopes that the research presented in the programme will help to raise awareness of unregistered marriages.

She said: “The issue of unregistered marriages was identified by the Law Commission of England and Wales in 2015 as one of a number of issues which signify the need for legal reform in marriage laws.

“This programme does the vital job of raising awareness of the issue, especially amongst the Muslim population in the country, who may not be aware that their religious marriages are not recognised by the state, resulting in them having no access to family law protections in the event of the relationship breaking down.”

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The research found that 60% of the women surveyed were in religious-only marriages which did not include civil registration and are therefore unrecognised by the law in England in Wales. In these cases the women do not benefit from family law protections so if their relationship breaks down they are unable to benefit from any financial remedies.

A total of 28% of the women in unregistered marriages were unaware that a religious marriage is not recognised by law, despite the considerable financial cost to the couple and their families, but three-quarters of all the women surveyed said that they did want their marriage to be recognised under British law.

Dr Akhtar’s own research has led her to the conclusion that family law should be overhauled to give more rights to cohabiting couples, thereby providing a solution to all families who are not in a formal marriage.

She added: “While the programme advocates legal recognition of religious ceremonies of marriage, my research takes a different approach and calls for a comprehensive overhaul in family law to include cohabitees’ rights. This would ensure that all families who live together are protected by family law, regardless of whether they have entered a formal state recognised marriage or not.”

Posted on Tuesday 21st November 2017

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