Sharia and women.

// 9 February 2008

I know little about Islam so I’m not going to make any pronouncements on how Sharia law works in the UK, but I came across an interesting story on The Times’ religion blog which is relevant to the current debate:

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a woman who works in an advocacy role for Muslim women in an area that, quite independently of the Bishop of Rochester, she described as a ‘no-go area’ for non-Muslims. Her clients were women in the process of being sectioned into mental health units in the NHS. This woman, who for obvious reasons begged not to be identified, told me: ‘The men get tired of their wives. Or bored. Or maybe the wife objects to her daughter being forced into a marriage she doesn’t want. Or maybe she starts wearing western clothes.There can be many reasons. The women are sent for asssessment to a hospital. The GP referring them is Muslim. The psychiatrist assessing them is Muslim and male. I have sat in these assessments where the psychiatrist will not look the woman patient in the eye because she is a woman. Can you imagine! A psychiatrist refusing to look his patient in the eye? The woman speaks little or no English. She is sectioned. She is divorced. There are lots of these women in there, locked up in these hospitals. Why don’t you people write about this?’

My interlocuter went very red and almost started to cry. Instead, she began shouting at me. I was a member of the press. ‘You must write about this,’ she begged.

‘I can’t,’ I said. ‘Not unless you become a whistle-blower. Or give me some evidence. Or something.’

She shook her head. ‘I can’t be identified,’ she said. ‘I would be killed. And so would the women.’

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