Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 2, 2007

Polygamy roundup

Macleans, Canada's national news magazine, just printed a long feature article titled "Polygamy: Legal in Canada." It focuses on fundamentalist Mormons, Muslim immigrants, and the recent phenomenon of fundamentalist Christians setting up "Biblical" households like those of Old Testament patriarchs:

Laws against plural marriages are so rarely prosecuted that a strong case can be made that they are already de facto legal....

...Should polygamists win in court — a real possibility — Canada's already suspect polygamy law would be blown out of the water. Marriage, already open to same-sex couples, could become a very crowded institution.

...The law against polygamy especially is almost never enforced, says an analysis of the legal and social ramifications of polygamy conducted for the federal government in 2005. In rare cases of a conviction, says the study, for the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada, "the jurisprudence reveals a tendency toward relatively light penal sentences."... Marriage has already been legally redefined to include same-sex unions to meet equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in the same-sex marriage reference, the notion of a "Christian" marriage is no longer relevant. "Canada is a pluralistic society," the court ruled. "Marriage, from the perspective of the state, is a civil institution."

Polygamy [laws are] also ripe to fall to a constitutional challenge. While many experts say the guarantee of religious freedom is grounds for a challenge, the report's authors say the ban on polygamy is most likely to offend the constitutional guarantee of "liberty," the right to make key personal choices. "In Canada today," the report says, "it is difficult to conceive of a more fundamental personal choice than whom one chooses to marry."

Read the whole article (June 25, 2007).

Next up: The London Times in England ran a classic Rupert Murdoch screamer last month under a headline that the story did not bear out:

1,000 men living legally with multiple wives despite fears over exploitation

By Dominic Kennedy

Polygamous marriage is flourishing as the Government admits for the first time that nearly a thousand men are living legally with multiple wives in Britain.

Although the families are entitled to claim social security for each wife, no one has counted how many of them are on benefits.

Ministers appear to be ignoring the separate practice of unauthorised polygamy, which is said to have become commonplace in some Muslim communities. The Ministry of Justice admits that it has no estimates of numbers for these unions, which are often presided over by an Islamic cleric....

MPs and peers have struggled for years to extract figures from ministers about the extent of polygamy. The first official estimate was made in response to a freedom of information request by The Times asking for statistics on benefits that are paid to wives who share a husband.

“It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 valid polygamous marriages in the UK, few of whom are claiming a state benefit,” the Department for Work and Pensions said. “Because of the small numbers concerned, our IT systems do not specifically record such information.”...

From "1,000 men" in the headline, to "nearly a thousand men" in the lead, to "no estimates of numbers", to the source's actual statement: "fewer than 1,000 valid polygamous marriages in the UK.... Because of the small numbers concerned, our IT systems do not specifically record such information." In other words, maybe 600, maybe 32, who knows. This is the Murdoch version of pyramid-style news writing (grump I, the former newspaper guy).

Read the whole article (May 28, 2007).

Other recent articles:

"Suburban polygamy" (real-life Big Love households in Utah)

"Husband takes polygamy plea to Jakarta court" (Indonesia)

"Polygamy plagues Indonesian leadership"

"Is polygamy an Islamic tradition?" (Kyrgyzstan)

"Traditional African Practices and Islam" (by an embattled secular humanist leader in Nigeria)

"Kurds consider outlawing polygamy" (Kurdistan/Iraq)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before we polys condemn traditional polygamy and say it has nothing to do with us, consider the huge differences between the relatively modern, Western, woman-empowered households profiled in the Utah article, and the horrors for women in the African and Indonesian situations.

We're NOT talking about one single phenomenon. The Utah households that Principle Voices showcases so effectively are closer to poly households than they are to the buying and selling of children into "marriage" in Mali or Nigeria.

July 03, 2007 12:15 PM  

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