SHOULD POLYGAMY BE A CRIME?

In a long judgement, just out, a Brtitish Columbia trial judge has upeld the constitionality of the Canadian criminal code that treats polygamy as a criminal offense.  Among other findings , the judge asserts that mo nogamy is a core value for Canadians.

But is it?  One of the problems with polygamy is that it can easily lead to more dependents than a breadwinner  can support.  Does not the same problem arise when someone  still supporting children and a spouse from a former relattionship assumes new family obligations. This is because divorce makes it socially acceptable for men to remarry and have more children while the first wife is  still living.  Divorce also makes it more likely that a man may become the breadwinner for one woman while still supporting another made dependent by a previous union.

The key difference between polygamy and the successive families enabled by divorce is timing.  Polygamy leads to multiple wive and  children simultaneously.  Divorce leads to mu ltiple wives and children sequentially.

Many Canadian adults have multiple living partners, past and present.  And many Canadian children have more than two parental figures active in their lives.

Many senior Canadian lawyers think this judgement on the legality of criminalizing polygsamy will be overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court.

Should religious freedom for polygamists be trumped by eonomic considerations?

In some ways is serial divorce the equivalent of polygamy?

Should polygamy be a crime?

What do you think?

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22 Comments »

  1. 1

    The purpose of polygamy is simply to bear more children , and the adult woman involved is not even a secondary concern.

    Society bans ,or at least restricts the use of narcotics because it wants to protect people from doing harm to themselves. Even though this idea is coming under attack,it still is a worthwhile goal. Ploygamy should also be banned,for the same reason. Preserving people`s value is worthwhile.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Should not religious freedom – the right to several wives – be paramount here?

  3. 3

    No, Phil. The “purpose” of polygamy is to gather women under one roof with one man. Offspring are a side issue. When the adult women are freely consenting, there can be NO harm. If you do not “value” that arrangement, then you are free not to indulge in it. But when you ban it and make it illegal, you are setting yourself up as a judge of other peoples’ values. Why should you be allowed to do that?

    The judge also specifically said that polyamory will remain legal. So here’s my question: what’s the difference — except for a piece of paper?

  4. 4

    I’m with Janus on this one.

    @Neil: What if a person’s religion (JW for example) harms their children? If a JW’s child needs a blood transfusion in order to live the parents, if they are strictly following JW teachings, will refuse this life-saving procedure. I think the courts have every right, in this case, to ignore the JW parents’ religious beliefs and force the child into medical care.
    Religious freedom has it’s limits Neil!

    Incidentally, I also favour legalizing drugs (all of ’em) and regulating it as done with tobacco and alcohol.

  5. 5
    Paul Says:

    I personally find it hard to believe that many of the women in these arrangements could be truly said to be freely consenting. These are patriarchal societies. If not then why does polygamy seldom if ever include a woman choosing multiple husbands?

  6. 6
    Neil McKenty Says:

    I agree with you, Joe. Religious freedom is not an absolute.

  7. 7

    @Paul:

    It’s the same thing with full-bodied burkas (IMO). It’s hard to imagine a woman actually wanting to cover herself from head to toe – but there are many many women who ~do~ choose this very thing for themselves!

    It all comes down to how you were raised and the culture in which you live. Burka women want nothing more than to please their God, and they think wearing a burka is one way to do it (among others of course). These polygamy wives think this is how to please their God…

    The common denominator here is man (as apposed to woman) made religions…

  8. 8

    “I personally find it hard to believe that many of the women in these arrangements could be truly said to be freely consenting.”

    That’s because you’re not a woman in one of these relationships, Paul. But just because YOU don’t believe it does not mean that you get to tell someone else that they can’t believe it.

    “…why does polygamy seldom if ever include a woman choosing multiple husbands?”

    Because then it would no longer be polygamy — it would be polyandry. And that form of bonded relationship also exists. Wanna try it? ;D

  9. 9

    “It’s hard to imagine a woman actually wanting to cover herself from head to toe…”

    Not if you give it a try for yourself. I did try it — not for any religious reasons, but just to see what it was like, and I found it to be VERY comfortable! Cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, because the enveloping “tent” regulates the climate next to your body, and keeps it stable. Underneath it, you can wear — or not wear — whatever you like. No sunburn. No getting wet in the rain. No wind to mess up a hair do. Comfortable.

  10. 10
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    As a woman I could not imagine to be one of twenty wives.
    What I find most disturbing is that girls of 8 or 10 are promised to these older men. They, the children. have very little choice and the only way of escaping is to leave the community. And it must be very difficult for a mother to leave with her children and live in a world outside of the community. She is not used to be employed, sometimes does not have the skills to make enough money to support the family.
    And the children have to get used to a school that is foreign to them. I do not know how they educate the children in those communes.
    But there are so many difficult choices to be made in the outside world.
    And children need protection from those old men.
    I saw a movie once, the name escapes me now, the lady had lots of difficulties to find her way after escaping with the three children. And one of the girls was
    in love with a young man at Bountiful which was very difficult because she went back to get together with the young man she loved.
    This is how I learned about Polygamy and I did not like what I saw. I feel for this mother and the children.

  11. 11

    Heidi, the scenario you describe is full of abuse. Abuse is wrong. But when polygamists are freely consenting, where is the harm? Not to your taste, but that’s your choice. Why not let consenting adults make their own choices?

  12. 12

    As you said , Neil,religious freedom is not an absolute. Jewish court decisions have to comply with the law of the land, and so should this matter.

    Lady J. maybe in this culture several women consent to be a harem for some reason, but in most societies,it is for breeding schildren, with one main wife as the companion,the others in subordinate roles. And society makes judgements all the time-divorce laws,compulsory education,drug restriction. .all sorts of things

  13. 13

    Phil, “society” really has to learn to mind its own business when consenting adults are concerned!

  14. 14

    Society often picks up the pieces when these things go kablooey. Look,if those nice folks in Bountiful want to live as one big, happy (?) family,go ahead. Just don`t call it a marriage.

    I had this same debate in another lifetime,on a less,er,reputable site,taking the same stand. Surprisingly, they ganged up on me. Fun it was.

  15. 15
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    Lady Janus
    I was not talking about consenting adults. I am concerned that 8 or 10 years old girls are forced to marry these male senior citizens. How can such a young girl consent to get married and bear this old guys children?

  16. 16

    Heidi, all polygamy is not abuse. I was pointing that out. Did you not understand?

  17. 17

    Phil, tht argument won’t wash. Neither the “we gotta clean up the mess” nor the “don’t call it marriage.”

    Learn to back off what goes on with consenting adults (or don’t you get the concept of consenting adults?). Not your business means not your business. What is a “mess” to you may be something completely different to someone else. That is all.

  18. 18
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    In the U. S., there is more legal, historical, and religious precedent for both polygamous and incest marriage than there is for gay marriage. That is why this is a slippery slope once you start allowing, in law, anything but one man, one woman unions.

    Prediction: if this goes to the Supreme Court of Canada and polygamy “wins”, Harper will use this as a ruse to get rid of BOTH polygamy AND gay marriage which will probably require the use of the “notwithstanding” clause. I also predict that he will back it up with a country-wide referendum that will ingeniously combine gay, polygamous, and incest marriage, together, on one side of the question and one-man, one-woman marriage on the other, thus asssuring a
    wimnfor traditional marriage. Without a SCC polygamy ruling, Harper could never, ever hope to get rid of gau marriage, which he obviously wants to. But with a polygamy ruling, he can thriw up his hands and say: see? My hands are tied…if we don’t settle this question once and for all ther’s mo telling where the marriage combinations will take us!

  19. 19
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    Lady Janus,
    I agree with your view about consenting adults.
    I just do not know how many of these wives are actually able to grow up to be consenting adults. I anyone has any numbers on this I would be very interested to know it.

  20. 20

    Heidi says: ” I just do not know how many of these wives are actually able to grow up to be consenting adults.”

    That’s a very profound statement. I agree.

  21. 21

    “I just do not know how many of these wives are actually able to grow up to be consenting adults.”

    Nobody does. And I find it really frustrating that nobody bothered to ask. Everyone just assumed they were not.

  22. 22

    I’m not sure that I understand your comment Lady J.

    However, if a person is brought up in a certain environment and it’s shown to be “normal” to be wedded & bedded by some old goat, then I am not sure that they can ever “grow up to be consenting”, in the real sense of the word. It’s a world that is very manipulated by men.


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