Denmark: Muslim women face trouble getting divorced

Denmark: Muslim women face trouble getting divorced

Via Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish):

Many Muslims in Denmark don't get married just at city hall. Muslim marriages (nikah) - where a couple are married by an imam - are very widespread.

But women who leave a Muslim marriage, risk violence in the worst case and in some cases being forced to give up contact with their families.

This according to a new report from the Danish National Centre for Social Research (SFI), which for the first time investigated the extent of Muslim marriages in Denmark, based on interviews with 250 people, primarily from the Muslim communities in Denmark.

"The problems of women are very different, depending on their ethnic and social group. But our study shows that many know of the problem with women who can't be divorced religiously," says senior researcher Anika Liversage, who made the study.

According to Anika Liversage it's difficult to quantify the extent of the problem.

The report confirms that there are Muslim women in Denmark who experience violence, harassment and social isolation because their husband won't give up on the religious marriage.

At the same time Anika Liversage emphasizes that the study doesn't confirm the existence of actual parallel justice systems, where imams determine legal disputes.

"Muslims in Denmark are a very diverse group, and they draw on different traditions and don't have actual religious courts like Jews and Catholics, but rather many concepts of parallel law. But there are examples of imams who help women with getting a recognized solution out of Muslim marriages," says Anika Liversage, who emphasizes that young 2nd generation immigrants have have fewer problems with getting a recognized divorce than their parents.

Anika Liversage points out that the divorce problems of Muslim women are largely dependent on their ethnic and social background. For example, Turkish women don't have such big problems getting divorced, because the Turkish courts usually recognize a civil divorce, and most of the Turkish imams in Denmark are sent by the Turkish state. In contrast, women from Iran and Iraq often have the biggest problem getting divorced by an imam.

"The problems of women with getting a recognized religious divorce can't be reduced to a religious problem for Muslims. It depends among other things on where in the world the women comes from, and what resources the women have in Denmark. The biggest problem are typically found by very vulnerable women, who live in closed communities with no contact to the job market," says Anika Liversage.

According to Social and Integration Minister Karen Hækkerup (S), the report shows that there are young people in Denmark who live outside Danish law. The minister will therefore establish an official committee to suggest possible solutions.

"We can't see people being trampled and oppressed this way. But the problem is complex and it's difficult to come up with quick solutions," says Karen Hækkerup.