Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 9–36 | Cite as

Faith in the state? Asian women’s struggles for human rights in the U.K.



The discourse of multiculturalism provides a useful means of understanding the complexities, tensions, and dilemmas that Asian and other minority women in the U.K. grapple with in their quest for human rights. However, the adoption of multiculturalist approaches has also silenced women’s voices, obscuring, for example, the role of the family in gendered violence and abuse. Focusing on the work of Southall Black Sisters, and locating this work within current debates on the intersection of government policy, cultural diversity, and feminist activism, this article examines, and critiques, the Labour government’s current “multi-faith” agenda for its impact on Black and minority ethnic women in the U.K.


Asian women black women domestic violence multiculturalism multi-faithism religious fundamentalism secularism state policies women’s human rights 


  1. Ali, Y., Muslim Women and the Politics of Ethnicity and Culture in Northern England, in Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain, eds. G. Saghal & N. Yuval-Davis (London: Virago, 1992) 106–128Google Scholar
  2. Anthias, F. & Yuval-Davis, N., Racialised Boundaries: Race, Nation, Gender, Colour and Class and the Anti-Racist Struggle (London: Routledge, 1992)Google Scholar
  3. Awaaz – South Asia Watch, “The Islamic Right – Key Tendencies” (June 2006). Available at http://www.awaazsaw.org/awaaz_pia4.pdf
  4. Berkeley, R., Connecting British Hindus: An Enquiry into the Identity and Public Engagement of Hindus in Britain (London: Department of Communities and Local Government and Hindu Forum of Britain, 2006). Available at http://www.hfb.org.uk/FileServer.aspx?oID=307&IID=0
  5. Bhugra, D. & Desai, M., Attempted Suicide in South Asian Women, British Journal of Psychiatry 8 (2002), 418–423Google Scholar
  6. C.A.F.C.A.S.S., Annual Report and Accounts 2005–2006 (London: The Stationery Office, 2006)Google Scholar
  7. Fawcett Society, Black and Ethnic Minority Women in the UK (London: Fawcett Society, 2005)Google Scholar
  8. Greater London Authority, Praying for Peace: Domestic Violence and Faith Communities Round-Table Report (London: Greater London Authority, 2006). Available at http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor/strategies/dom_violence/docs/faith-report.rtf
  9. Hari, J., “How Multiculturalism is Betraying Women”, The Independent (23 October 2007)Google Scholar
  10. Home Office Faith Communities Unit, Working Together: Co-operation Between Government and Faith Communities – Progress Report (London: Home Office, 2005). Available at http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/151996
  11. Home Office Faith Communities Unit, Working Together: Co-operation Between Government and Faith Communities (London: Home Office, 2004). Available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/workingtog-faith040329.pdf?view=Binary
  12. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “Faith as Social Capital” (2006). Available at http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/0136.asp
  13. Mulholland, H., “Blair to Crack Down on Funding for Religious Groups”, Guardian Unlimited (8 December 2006)Google Scholar
  14. Kehsavjee, M.M., “Multiculturalism and the Challenges it Poses to Legal Education and Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Situation of British Muslims”, Lecture to the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, 6 May 2004. Available at http://iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=104713
  15. Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, Child Protection in Faith-Based Environments: A Guideline Report (London: Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, 2006). Available at http://www.muslimparliament.org.uk/Documentation/ChildProtectionReport.pdf
  16. Muslim Women’s Network, She Who Disputes: Muslim Women Shape the Debate (London: Women’s National Commission, 2006). Available at http://www.thewnc.org.uk/pubs/shewhodisputesnov06.pdf
  17. Patel, P., Multiculturalism: The Myth and the Reality, Women: A Cultural Review 2 (3) (1991), 209–213Google Scholar
  18. Raleigh, V.S. & Balarajan, R., Suicides Among Immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent, British Journal of Psychiatry 156 (1992), 46–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sahgal, G., Legislating Utopia: Violence Against Women, Identities and Interventions, in The Situated Politics of Belonging, eds. N. Yuval-Davis, U. Vieten & K. Kannabiran (London: Sage, 2006) 205–224Google Scholar
  20. Sahgal, G., Secular Spaces: The Experience of Asian Women Organising, in Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain, eds. G. Sahgal & N. Yuval-Davis (London: Virago, 1992) 163–197Google Scholar
  21. Sahgal, G. & Yuval-Davis, N. (eds.), Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain (London: Virago, 1992)Google Scholar
  22. Yuval-Davis, N., Fundamentalism, Multiculturalism and Women in Britain, in Race, Culture and Difference, eds. J. Donald & A. Rattansi (London: Sage, 1992) 279–291Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southall Black SistersSouthallUK

Personalised recommendations