Past Events

The City Circle is an open circle for open minds

Muslim Marriages: know your rights / #cctalks at House of Lords

Speakers: Sir Mark Hedley, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, Grant Howell and Dr Samia Bano

Date: Monday 17 October 2016

Time: 17:45 to 20:00

Venue: River Room, House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW

Tickets: Please book your place via Eventbrite

Clandestine marriage ceremonies are being conducted throughout the country. There are no formal requirements for having witnesses, being married at an official venue or by an official. In time it emerges that the husband has married several times, the children have little or no financial support and the women are left destitute.

This was England 300 years ago before laws were established to grant protection to women. Sadly, 300 years later, many religious groups in England, particularly Muslims have revived similar religious marriages which fail to grant women their legal rights according to the English Court of Law. There are also increasing concerns that cases of family issues referred to Sharia Councils are failing to protect women leading to the Home Office and Home Affairs Select Committee Sharia reviews.

In this event, our esteemed panel will discuss the ways in which religious freedom is protected under international law, how Muslims can accommodate the right to religious freedom in family matters and what the Home Office Sharia reviews hope to achieve.

The panel comprises Sir Mark Hedley, Baroness Berridge, Grant Howell partner at Charless Russell Speechlys and Dr Samia Bano at SOAS University.

If you have any questions please contact Shabana Saleem on

Please note that this is a ticketed event - only 50 spaces available and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. Book your free place via Eventbrite.

Attendees will be sent an email of the House of Lords - City Circle invitation by 5pm on Friday 14 October. You must bring both the invitation and photo ID to gain access. City Circle is not responsible if you do not comply with the House of Lords security requirements.


Sir Mark Hedley is a former British judge of the High Court of England and Wales. He was recently appointed as one of the panel members for the Home Office Sharia Law. After studying at the University of Liverpool, he was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1969. He spent a year in Sudan before undertaking his pupillage. He practiced as a barrister and was appointed a recorder in 1988, a circuit judge in 1992 and High court judge in 2001. He is described as the “epitome of a modern judge, in touch with society and its issues”. 

Baroness Elizabeth Berridge is a British Conservative politician and member of the House of Lords. Since 2012 Elizabeth has become a key voice on freedom of religion and belief as defined under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She started and currently serves as Co-Chair of the All Parliamentary Party on International Religious Freedom where she leads the discussion on this deepening worldwide issue.

Grant Howell is a Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys. He is a specialist family lawyer and recognised individual in the legal directories. He is also a family arbitrator and collaborative lawyer. Grant is head of the Middle East Family practice dealing with family issues of expatriates based in the Middle East. He is a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers.

Dr Samia Bano is a Senior Lecturer in Law and joined SOAS in September 2013. Her research interests include, amongst other things, the practice of Muslim family law in the UK and Europe. She has published widely and is the author of “Muslim women and Sharia Councils: Transcending the boundaries of Community and Law (Palgrave MacMillan Dec 2012). She has also completed a research project for the Ministry of Justice entitled "An exploratory study of Sharia Councils in England with respect to family law" (2013). 

Shabana Saleem is a Family law Barrister at Charles Russell Speechlys. She has a Masters in international dispute resolution and particular expertise in Islamic and Middle East law having worked within Muslim Mediation and for expatriate clients abroad. As Committee Member of City Circle she has organised this lecture for members. If you have any questions on this event or would like to propose an event please contact her directly on