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Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill receives its second reading on 27 January 2017

Bill seeks to enhance Muslim women’s rights

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill received its second reading on 27 January 2017 and has been committed to Committee of the whole house on a date to be announced.

The Bill is a private member's bill introduced by Baroness Cox and received its first reading in the House of Lords on 25 May 2016.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill would make provisions regarding the application of equalities legislation to arbitration and mediation services. It seeks to prevent providers of arbitration services from doing anything that constitutes discrimination, harassment or victimisation on the grounds of sex. It would do so by inserting a new subsection into the Equalities Act 2010 and into the Arbitration Act 1996. It would also provide clarification that discrimination includes, but is not restricted to, treating evidence from men as being of greater value than that of women, or vice versa. The Family Law Act 1996 would also be amended to allow courts to set aside any order based on a mediation settlement agreement, or other negotiation agreement, if the court believes on the basis of evidence that one party's consent was not genuine. The Bill would also place an obligation on public authorities to inform those who are married according only to certain religious practices, or those in polygamous households, that they may be without legal protection.

Baroness Cox has said the bill

"seeks to tackle gender discrimination in arbitration proceedings, informal mediations or pseudo-courts. It ensures that Muslim women have genuine access to knowledge concerning their rights."

According to The Christian Institute, bill has the support of the Muslim Women's Advisory Council, the National Secular Society and Passion for Freedom, as well as cross-party support from Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers and MPs.

The House of Lords Library had published a briefing in preparation for the second reading debate.

For the Bill, click here. For the second reading debate, click here. For the briefing, click here.