Faith and the search for justice: Sharia Councils and gender based violence

Faith and the search for justice: Sharia Councils and gender based violence

Wednesday, 26 February 2020 - 2:00pm
Board Room, Kirdar Building, Middle East Centre, St Antony's College
Dr Nadia Aghtai (Senior Lecturer in Gender and Violence, University of Bristol)
Dr Soraya Tremayne (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA)
MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars

Researchers at the Universities of Bristol, UWE and Cardiff in the UK conducted a 30 month Economic and Social Research Council-funded project to explore how 'justice' (in its wider sense) is understood, sought, and experienced by victims/survivors of gender-based violence and by practitioners working to support them.    Through semi-structured interviews and police data analysis, this work is also documenting how inequalities and identities intersect with how victims/survivors perceive and seek justice.  This paper presents the findings from one strand of this work: how justice is mediated through religious based arbitration and how faith may influence personal and institutional conceptions of justice and affect decision-making.

The presentation focuses specifically on the role of Sharia Councils in arbitrating cases of intimate partner violence and present the findings of interviews with both victims/survivors who have used this mechanism and with practitioners involved in their leadership and administration as well as women’s rights activists. 


Dr Nadia Aghtaie is a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Violence at University of Bristol, School for Policy Study. She is an active member of Gender Violence Research Centre and Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence. Since 2008, Nadia has worked with colleagues on various projects such as, forced marriage within the UK, violence against women in rural and urban areas in the UK. Her most recent research projects have been looking into Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPVA) among Teenagers in Five European Countries: 'Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Relationships (STIR): Connecting online and offline contexts and risks'​; 'Justice, Inequality & Gender Based Violence'; 'Gender based Violence and Displacement' . 

Some of her publications:

Aghtaie, N., Mulvihill, N, Abraha, H. (accepted) Defining and Enabling ‘Justice’ for Victims/Survivors of Domestic Violence and Abuse: The Views of Practitioners Working within Muslim, Jewish and Catholic Faiths. Religion and Gender. 

Aghtaie, N. Larkins,  C. Barter, C. Stanley, N. Wood, M. Overlien, C. (2018) Interpersonal Violence and Abuse in Young People’s Relationships in Five European Countries: online and offline normalisation of heteronormativity, Journal of Gender-Based Violence, 2 (2): 292-311.

Aghtaie, N. (2017) Rape within heterosexual intimate relationships in Iran: legal frameworks, cultural and structural violence, Families, Relationships and Societies, Vol 6, No 2, 167-183.

Aghtaie, N. & Gangoli. G (2015) Understanding Gender Based Violence in National and International Contexts. London: Routledge