The Chained Wife Problem: Religious and Secular Perspectives

Dmytro Vovk is Director of the Centre for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion.

In January 2020, it was reported that a Jewish woman in London launched a private prosecution against her ex-husband who had refused to grant her a religious divorce, called a get. Though they were divorced under civil laws, the absence of a religious divorce chained the wife in her marriage and negatively affected her life in the community, primarily by preventing her from remarrying. The woman and her lawyers claimed that the husband’s behavior should be prosecuted under a 2015 law criminalizing “controlling and coercive behavior” as a form of domestic abuse. The threat of criminal conviction convinced the ex-husband to grant the woman the get, and she later revoked her action as a result. (more…)

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The Aguna Problem – Recent Developments

Haim Shapira is Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University (Israel) 

In a recent case in the UK, a Jewish woman was able to obtain a get (bill of religious divorce) from her husband by launching a private prosecution against him for controlling or coercive behavior. This has been described as a landmark case in the struggle of Jewish women to obtain religious divorces from uncooperative husbands. In this short post I explain the problem of aguna (“chained” wife), review recent developments in this area, and explain why this last case is truly groundbreaking. (more…)

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Divorce and the Chained Wife: The Interplay of Civil Law and Religious Law

Mark Hill QC practices at the Bar in London and is an affiliated or visiting professor at the Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff University; Pretoria University, South Africa; Notre University Law School, Sydney, Australia; and the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College, London.

In most countries of the world, the inter-relationship between the state law on marriage and that of differing religious groups is complex and contested. It is navigated in varying ways, both conceptually and as a matter of practice. Clarity as to the subsistence of a marriage is essential where issues of succession and inheritance are concerned, and – as a minimum – the state has a continuing duty to ensure the well-being of children in the event that a marriage breaks down. (more…)

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