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A Dutch court has ruled the refusal of a divorce to a woman in the case of a Islamic marriage is a unlawful act.

Islamic marriages in the Netherlands are, in a legal sense, without consequences as they are not recognized by civil law. This also means that a divorce in that case is no matter for a civil court. However, jurisprudence is changing now.

The case of a Shia Islamic marriage and divorce
In 2014 a man and a woman entered into an Shia Islamic marriage in 2014. A year later the woman filed for divorce. The man refused to comply unless the woman returns the dowry, worth 4,000 euros, back to him. Furthermore, the man argued that divorce can only be declared by an Islamic official as this pertains to an Islamic marriage and not a civil one. The woman however choose to go to court to get her divorce even though the man refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court.

The court ruled that a judge might not be able to dissolve the Islamic marriage as they are not recognized by Dutch law in any way. However, the court also ruled that it is competent to determine whether a refusing the woman a divorce, would be a wrongful act.

The verdict
The court concluded that such was indeed the case because if the marriage would be continued the rights and freedoms of a woman would be violated, for example to enter into a new relationship. Furthermore, the court took into consideration that a refusal to grant a divorce would facilitate inequality between the female and male partner. And the court argued that without a divorce being granted, the woman could be become a target for honor killing and prosecution in case she went to Iraq (which is where she was born). These consequences constitute a violation of the rights and freedoms of a woman which makes the refusal of a divorce a wrongful act against the woman.

Complete text of the verdict (in Dutch): http://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBOBR:2016:4140

This publication is part of the project Problematizing ‘Muslim Marriages’: Ambiguities and Contestations funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement 324180′.