London: Polygamy is being practised on an enormous scale among Britain's Muslims with a large number of women being denied basic legal rights, a new study in the UK claimed.
A study presented to the Upper House of the British Parliament by peer Baroness Cox concludes that a large number of Muslim women in the country are being denied basic legal rights by being trapped in religiously sanctioned "marriages" which are not recognised in British law.
In some cases the women, often born abroad and brought to the UK for arranged marriages, are unaware about their true status for years on end, the Telegraph reported.
Baroness Cox has spearheaded an attempt to impose new regulations on informal sharia courts.
Aurat, a Muslim women's rights group based in the West Midlands, interviewed a sample of 50 women about their personal situations.
Nine in 10 of the women described themselves as married but only one in 10 were in marriages recognised under English law, having been formalised through a civil wedding or a ceremony in a mosque registered for the purpose.
"You can't extrapolate straight from this but you can make a reasonable assumption that if this is not unrepresentative, this is clearly very widespread, and we are therefore dealing with enormous numbers," Baroness Cox said.
She added: "The implications for the women are very serious and it violates the fundamental principles of our country that bigamy is illegal and yet polygamy is condoned and allowed to flourish.
"It is just continuing without any comment or expression of concern but for the women it causes concern and they are suffering. But these are very closed communities and it is very hard to ascertain the exact extent to which this is happening.
"In some communities, women find great pressure not to speak out and bring shame on the community."
The peer had last year tabled a private member's bill to regulate unofficial sharia courts which she said compound the pressure on women in some communities.