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Tribunal of Commissioners rule on polygamous marriages

DATE: 02 Dec 2007

CP/3114/2003 CG/3118/2003 CF/3122/2003

In these cases the Tribunal of Commissioners had to consider whether "widow" or "spouse" in the provisions governing widow’s benefits, bereavement Benefits and Category B retirement pensions could include a woman who was married to a man, where that marriage was actually polygamous at the date of death when applying Article 14 and the Human Rights Act 1998. The Tribunal ruled that there was no breach of Article 14 of the Convention and accordingly there was no entitlement to such benefits for those who were in actually polygamous marriages.

In the three cases the women had all entered into potentially and actually polygamous marriages in Bangladesh. All the parties were domiciled in the place where the marriages took place and all of the marriages were legally recognised in the place of domicile.

The Chief Commissioner and Commissioner Howell QC reached that decision on the basis that there was no discrimination.

Commissioner Levenson gave separate reasoning holding that there was discrimination (albeit not on "suspect grounds", see Carson) but that it was justified.

James Maurici appeared for the three claimants, instructed by Tower Hamlets Law Centre.