Ontario Outlaws Religious Arbitration

After months of fierce protesting by Canadian and international women’s rights groups, the Ontario provincial government on Monday rejected a 2004 proposal to allow Muslims use of sharia (Islamic) law to settle family disputes. “It is a victory for women’s rights, for children’s rights, for human rights,” said Homa Arjamond, co-chair of the No Religious Arbitration Coalition, according to Reuters.

“Women’s rights are not protected by any religion,” she told The Globe and Mail, especially not fundamentalist Islam. At the same time, the government announced they would move quickly to outlaw religious arbitration altogether. “There will be one law for all Ontarians,” Premier Dalton McGuinty told The Canadian Press.

Since 1991, under the province’s Arbitration Act, Jewish and Christian tribunals have been used to settle issues of child custody and divorce. Traditional Muslims argued last year that they should have the same rights as other religious groups. If this proposal had passed, Ontario would have been the first Western government to allow the use of sharia law.

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Associated Press 9/11/05; Reuters 9/12/05; Globe and Mail 9/12/05; Canadian Press 9/12/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 5/25/04

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