SHOULD POLYGAMY BE A CRIME?

The Attorney-General of British Columbia, Wally Oppal, has named a special prosecutor to weigh charges against individuals in the village of Bountiful which houses a community of polygamists.

Bountiful has been a headache for B.C. officials for years. But there are conflicting opinions on whether polygamy (punishable by five years in the penitentiary) is protected by the Charter as a religious right. Some legal scholars argue that the ban on polygamy is unconstitutional.

The Attorney-General disagrees: “I happen to think that the law regarding polygamy is a valid law and if people are violating that law, it’s up to us to prosecute.” Among other things, Mr. Oppal believes there is sexual abuse and exploitation of women in Bountiful.

If that is so, why not just go ahead and lay charges that women and children in Bountiful are being abused? These offenses are covered by the Criminal Code.

Let us go further and pose the question: why should polygamy be a crime at all? Is it evident that a situation where a man has three wives and ten children is inherently evil and should be punished by the criminal code. It is not evident to me. Where is the exploitation if the women agree freely to this arrangement? Where is the sexual abuse in such a loving family. Remember, the courts in Texas have just over- turned a decision that would separate children from their polygamous parents because there was insufficient evidence of any abuse.

So if there is abuse and exploitation, prosecute the polygamists under the relevant clauses of the Criminal Code. But if there is just a loving polygamous family (one husband and several wives) let them live in Bountiful in peace. Remove polygamy from the Criminal Code as an offense punishable by five years in prison. That would remove any necessity of referring cases to the courts to determine whether polygamy as an exercise in religion violates the Charter.

Do you agree polygamy should no longer be a crime?

32 Comments »

  1. 1
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “Do you agree polygamy should no longer be a crime?”

    Yes. I agree.

    If there is abuse etc. in the community then those issues should be dealt with by the authorities using the criminal code making the abuse illegal. The plural marriage is of NO concern – that ISN’T the problem.

  2. 2
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    Religion aside, I can agree with a guy having three wives. But I dont agree with a woman having three husbands, and me one of them.

  3. 3
    Cornelius T. Zen Says:

    Good morrow, all!
    Mark Twain was once asked by a Mormon to cite a pasage in the Bible which forbade polygamy. Twain quipped: No man may serve two masters.
    Polyamory (which includes polygamy and polyandry, a wife with more than one husband) is really nobody’s business but the individuals involved, unless and until there is any criminal activity involved — such as the husband of several wives refusing to get a job. Justifiable homicide, ladies? But, frivilously, folks…
    Making polygamy a crime was somewhat similar to outlawing hemp, just because smoking cotton got you nothing but scorched cotton, which, seriously, guys, tastes bloody awful. All those unhappy men married to only one miserable woman just had to express their envy somehow.
    Marriage was originally a means of establishing ownership and patrimony. After all, it’s Mama’s baby, and Daddy’s, maybe. Multiple marriages were quite common in the early days of the Hebrew tribes, if you remember. Where was the societal outrage then? “I have one wife and four camels.” “You lucky schmuck — I have one camel and four wives. Wanna trade?”
    Polygamy should not be outlawed. In this case, the crime IS the punishment. I feel sorry for the poor fool who insists on more than one wife. Not a moment’s peace. CTZen.

  4. 4
    jim Says:

    I’ve noticed that in Texas the men do not use the word “wives”.
    1) For someone to practice polygamy they must be married.
    2) If polygamy is illegal, then the act of marriage is nul and void.
    3) If the man is humping a bunch of women and the women are not underage and the women are playing the game, go man go. If the women are – well once again I’ll give you an example, my wife ran away with my best friend, I don’t know who he is, but he’s my best friend. 4) If he forces an underage female into having sex, now we’ve got him
    5) Why did the Texans dislocate the children causing much anguish when they should have removed the men?.
    6) I don’t think the BC government will act in the same manner as the Texans regarding moving the children. Remember the backlash the BC authorities got when they removed the Doukhobor’s children way back when?

  5. 5
    Barbara Says:

    Polygamy might have been useful when women were unlikely to survive childbirth and continuity of the tribe was essential. What is the excuse for its necessity now? Have you really thought through the injustices of the system? Why would not any man, regardless of avowed faith, then be allowed to keep a multitude of wives (or a woman a multitude of husbands)? Is there a line to be drawn anywhere? How does one determine if all are truly willing parties to the arrangement?

  6. 6
    Chimera Says:

    Barbara, if you’re going to uses “injustices” as an excuse for denying the practise of polyamory, you’re going to have to enumerate those “injustices.” Be specific, please.

    “How does one determine if all are truly willing parties to the arrangement?”

    Why not just ask them?

    Jim makes a really cogent point, here — if a second marriage is performed without dissolving the first, then the second marriage is deemed to be void automatically. It doesn’t exist. The pope could officiate, and it would still be non-existent.

    So where’s the polygamy?

    Much as I admire Wally Oppal, and have done for years when he was still a sitting judge, I disagree with him on this. It’s time to remove all references to polyamory from the CCC. Let consenting adults live with (or not), and make babies with (or not) whom they choose. It’s nobody else’s businesss!

  7. 7

    Polygamy is illegal in Canada, and should remain so. There was a recent admission by an Ontario Imam that he has married over 20 couples into polygamous marriages under Sharia. He needs to be prosecuted and an example made of him.

    Bountiful, BC needs to be cleaned up. Polygamy is a practice that values a wife to be far less than equal to her husband, even his other wives – there is strict seniority in place.

    Mormons considered the practice of polygamy to be unimportant enough to their beliefs that they renounced it in order to have Utah become eligible for statehood. The only places that continue the practice today are cult type communities like Bountiful and Texas, and of course the mid-East states that grant few rights to women.

    If you accept that polygamy should be legal, you also accept that women are less than your equal. If you believe that, you are beneath contempt. Ask the average Canadian Muslim woman what she thinks of polygamy coming to Canada, listen to her reply and then see if you can square a circle that would legalize this status. Ask yourself, if you have a daughter – is this what you want for her? To be the virtual slave to a pervert?

    Neil says “So if there is abuse and exploitation, prosecute the polygamists under the relevant clauses of the Criminal Code.” Which would be fine, but, for example, how would wife number 3 with no seniority, no method of self-support and little contact with ‘normal’ society ever going to know that a state that sanctioned her servitude might want to defend her from ‘abuse’? How will she even know what abuse is, if her fellow wives tell her its normal?

    I respectfully suggest that any western man that wants to enter a polygamous relationship should feel free to leave Canada and set up his home in Saudi Arabia where it is legal; don’t try to bring a discredited medieval view of women rights into this country.

  8. 8

    dailybayonet:

    Many women in polygamous marriages, both in B.C. and Texas, say they are happy and fulfilled. Why should we disbelieve them?

  9. 9
    Barbara Says:

    Ask them, Chimera? How can one give informed consent if one does not know the pros and cons of what the rest of the society deems legal and appropriate? It is not without reason that these polygamous communes isolate themselves from the rest of the world. There are any number of people who will give up even life itself in the name of a cult leader because they have been indoctrinated. And what of the “surplus” young men?
    While it might provide moments of fantasy for some men to consider legalizing polygamy, I suspect it would not be as well-received among most women. It denigrates women, it fosters their dependence. Why is bigamy a crime? It is fraudulent as well as an injustice to all the spouses involved.
    If an individual man wishes to have children with a number of women — sequentially or contemporaneously — one could approve or disapprove according to one’s moral standards. It is private. But to legalize such an arrangment — no thank you.

  10. 10
    Chimera Says:

    “Polygamy is illegal in Canada, and should remain so.”

    Why? Can you demonstrate that you, personally, are being injured in some way by someone else’s consensual lifestyle?

    “Polygamy is a practice that values a wife to be far less than equal to her husband…”

    How do you know? And do you know this for a fact, or are you simply extrapolating from hearsay?

    “If you accept that polygamy should be legal, you also accept that women are less than your equal.”

    Sez whom? When did those two separate concepts get married to one another?

  11. 11
    Chimera Says:

    “How can one give informed consent if one does not know the pros and cons of what the rest of the society deems legal and appropriate?”

    And how do you know that they don’t know? Or…what if they know and don’t care what the rest of society thinks? What if they just want people like you to leave them alone?

    “I suspect it would not be as well-received among most women.”

    That’s a matter of personal choice…something most women will fight to keep for themselves, doncha think? Those who choose not to live a polyamorous life are not being forced into anything.

    “It denigrates women…”

    How? You’re actually doing more denigrating by treating all the women of this country as if they were too stupid to make choices for themselves.

    “But to legalize such an arrangment — no thank you.”

    It doesn’t have to be “legalized.” It just needs to be removed from the Criminal Code of Canada.

  12. 12

    Neil, believe them if you like, it is immaterial to whether the practice deserves official sanction. I prefer to apply the Stockholm Syndrome explanation to those inside cults that say they are happy.

    By your logic the ‘men’ who believe that having sex with young boys would make them happy and fulfilled also deserve a legal ability to practice their proclivities. Who are we to refuse them a happy consensual relationship? Is there anywhere you would draw a line?

    Chimera, read the report by the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre: Separate and Unequal: The Women and Children of Polygamy. You will find answers to your questions there.

  13. 13

    dailybayonet:

    Men having sex with young boys is a criminal act. Period.

    It has no parallell with a man having concensual sex with several women.

  14. 14

    Neil,

    The Canada Criminal Code article 293 asserts that polygamy is a criminal act. Period.

    Yet, you advocate making it legal. why?

    Once you start redefining relationships to include everyone’s brand of kink, where do you stop? Why do you feel so absolute about men having sex with young boys being illegal, and not polygamy?

    At the time of the same-sex marriage debate, many on the political right claimed that the next step would be the legalization of polygamy. It looks like they had a point. If polygamy is allowed, who is to say that advocates for under-age sex won’t be next, or lowering the age of consent to 13, or 12, or 10?

    Social engineering does raise the tough questions.

  15. 15
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    I only have a problem with poligamy if there are children involved. The way our society seems to work you do not need poligamy, people seem to be sleeping around with anyone. But I believe in order to raise children they nee to know who their parents are.
    I wonder what would happen if I had three “husbands”. Would society condone that just the same way they condone four or five wives.
    I prefer that to the scenario where I had to wait my turn to get attention from my “busy” husband because his calender has first other names on it.
    I cannot imagine that gelosie would not play a big part.
    As has been said before, economic dependency plays a big role. This women have a very hard time to leave. So they stay.
    Since they have grown up in the system their choices have been taken away. The leader of the community chooses their mostly much older husbands. How do they know how to resist this system?
    I agree with Neil that there must be some happy marriages. But I do not see them as equals.

  16. 16
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    How about homosexual polygamy?

    Say, one man with 5 husbands?

    Or lesbian polygamy: one woman with 6 wives?

    And why not if gay marriage is now legal in Canada? If polygamy will soon be legal, let’s combine the two concepts.

    How about incest marriages? If the only objection to incest is the possible negative genetical outcomes, why not allow it if (1) both parties consent and are over 18; and (2) both parties sterilize themselves.

    How about polygamous incest? All members of a family can marry.

    Oh, the possibilities are endless.

  17. 17
    dez Says:

    Clearly, there are people who are not ready for the concept of legalized polygamy or polyandry.

    dailybayonet brings up my all-time favorite response: Where does it stop? Where do you draw the line, if not here? I love that argument, I do. It implies that, once the moral downslide has begun, there will be no stopping it until we are clearly in the deepest recesses of Hell.

    This whole deal with building houses, for example. Where will it end? How much house does one family need? Driven through Beverly Hills, lately? Shameless. Three stories and seven acres of landscaping for a single-family home? That’s just obscene.

    Caves. That’s where we should have drawn the line. We should have never left the caves.

    I agree with Chimera on this one. Who is being hurt?

    Let’s say you have five men and five women living together. Yes, I mean together in that sense. And let’s say they have children. Hard to tell who the father is without a blood test, but none of them really seem concerned about it.

    Some of the women work outside the home, and some of the men stay home to help with the housework (yes, that does happen in real life), but all work is shared more or less equally. Any disputes are worked out as a group, with no one person having authority over another.

    The terms “daddy” and “mommy” are a bit vague, but there is a Daddy Jim and a Mommy Nancy, etc. The kids seem reasonably well-adjusted, with no signs of abuse, and there is always always always adult supervision and plenty of attention. Nobody feels neglected. Nobody feels alone.

    I can just imagine the horror in your eyes.

    No, there are still too many folks out there who are not ready for this concept. We simply have not been out of the caves that long.

  18. 18
    Joe Agnost Says:

    Chimera already addressed Barbara adequately – great points Chimera!

    DailyBayonet wants polygamy to remain illegal because HE finds it offensive. Oh dear! First the gays, now polygamy – following this reasoning we’ll be legalizing pedophelia next!! Chicken little would admire you Bayonet!

    Children can’t consent, adults can. If adults want to consent to plural marriage it’s nobody’s business but there’s!

    “At the time of the same-sex marriage debate, many on the political right claimed that the next step would be the legalization of polygamy.”

    Oh the horror!! Letting consenting adults do what they enjoy – imagine the audacity! How dare they get enjoyment from something which, while not affecting us in the slightest, offends us so deeply. Let’s FORCE them to live by OUR rules eh!!?

    “How about incest marriages?”

    Yes – how about them? Are they adults?? Then BUTT OUT! It doesn’t concern you and they should be allowed to find happiness any possible way they want (barring hurting someone else).

    Come on, why do poeple think it’s THERE business how OTHER people live their lives?? Stick to your own lives/business and the world would be a better place. Sticking your nose into other people’s lives means you likely have too much time on your hands – find a hobby instead!

  19. 19
    Chimera Says:

    DB, If I wanted to know what Alberta researchers think, I’d read the report. But I don’t want to know what they think. I asked you, personally.

    How are you being injured by someone else’s different kind of living arrangements?

    Dez, I see you remember slan shacks, eh? All those people, consenting all over the place in the privacy of their houses, refusing to satisfy their neighbors’ itching-beyond-scratching curiosity!

    Tony, the possibilities are indeed endless. And what’s wrong with that?

    CONSENTING ADULTS! Focus on that, people, willya? Or the next thing you know, the very people you’re subjecting to your tyranies today are gonna come hunting you and your own peculiarities tomorrow, if for no other reason than sweet revenge.

  20. 20

    I see that Chimera, Joe and Dez are dyed in the wool enablers, following time worn PC doctrine that in no way must you hold a dissenting opinion about any individual’s lifestyle. I gave you a link to a study that you choose not to read. After all, why let facts get in the way of a good argument, right?

    You wanted my opinion, I gave it in my first post. You ask who would be harmed, I honestly don’t know the answer to that. But, I strongly suspect that it would cause more harm that not, in the end. I can’t prove it would, you can’t prove it won’t. Detente.

    Your preference for anything goes is a naive way to look at the world. You are the best friends of pedophiles who would drive down the age of consent so that children would become ‘consenting adults’, which in your own words means for everyone else to mind their own business.

    I can be fairly libertarian on things like government social programs, healthcare etc. and I’m not a religious person, so my opinion is not an ideology. I happen to remain attached to the idea that society as a whole is better off with a basic set of accepted rules and that excluding behaviour like polygamy is generally a benefit.

    That you argue otherwise is your right, and I must respect that. But I do not have to understand it, or condone it. Fortunately your views are off in the statistical outlier zone when compared to the mainstream. How’s the weather there?

  21. 21
    Chimera Says:

    DB, you’re such a timid soul, willing to deny someone else a free choice because you suspect that it might “cause harm (whatever you mean by that)” “in the end (wherever or whenever that might be).” And you readily admit you can’t prove anything, but you’re willing to deny free choice, anyway.

    If Columbus had listened to someone like you, North America might still be relatively unknown to Europeans.

    And, while you give opinion, you don’t back it up. You hide behind lame arguments from other people, but you have no words of your own. Flinging accusations of pedophilia and enabling (WTF is that, exactly?) about, and accusing staunchly un-PC people of drinking the PC koolaid is NOT HELPFUL. It is, in fact, decidedly smokescreenish.

    If you can think of any cogent reason why my choosing to live in a marriage with seven other people of all genders will harm you, let’s hear it. Please be specific. Otherwise, please leave it alone.

  22. 22

    “Otherwise, please leave it alone.”

    I wondered how long it would take for you to just tell me to shut up, it is the way of the left. I gave you facts, and sources, but you’re not interested – you prefer to shout your straw man argument.

    My final word on this topic is that you Google the name Safa Rigby and take a look at a real living breathing person that has been hurt by polygamy. You wanted to know who got hurt – now you know.

  23. 23
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “My final word on this topic is that you Google the name Safa Rigby…”

    Oh my god!! Someone got hurt by polygamy! Ban it for all!!!

    So someone getting hurt is all it takes for you to want it banned? I cringe at the society you would create….

  24. 24
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “Google the name Safa Rigby…”

    Nice example!! Too bad it is completely irrelevant!

    For those too busy to google this lady here is the gist:

    Safa married an egyptian and moved to egypt to raise their kids. Still in Toronto her husband married many other women. Safa found out and was horrified and hurt.

    And this has NOTHING to do with consenting adults engaging in plurar marriages. This is the case of a husband cheating on his wife – in this case marrying other women. This is bigamy – not polygamy…

  25. 25
    Barbara Says:

    You gentlemen are assuming the first wife gets some say in the choice of subsequent wives. No matter if some women are conned into accepting this system, it is still a system designed to service the male. It is not one designed to foster growth on the part of both parties. The fact that some traditional marriages operate in this lopsided way is no excuse either. They are wanting as well. While they are not outlawed, we can at least not permit the injustice on a larger scale.

  26. 26
    Chimera Says:

    “You wanted to know who got hurt…”

    No.

    I want to know how YOU would be hurt by polyamory.

    Apparently, it’s a question you can’t answer. Why not just say so?

  27. 27
    Chimera Says:

    Barbara, when you talk about other people’s making assumptions, perhaps a glance in the mirror would tell you that you’re right in the middle of the crowd, there.

    You don’t seem to have any trouble assuming that, in a society of fully consenting adults, women involved in polyamorous relationships would be allowed no say at all. Just how do you equate “consenting adults” with “men only?”

  28. 28
    Barbara Says:

    When other women are hurt, then I am hurt. We are all part of the main, as John Donne put it. It just seems curious to me that men are such staunch defenders of legalized polyamory. Perhaps they are blinded by some odd sense of self-interest.

  29. 29
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “You gentlemen are assuming the first wife gets some say in the choice of subsequent wives.”

    And you seem to be assuming that she doesn’t.

    Nowhere in the definition of polygamy does it say that the woman doesn’t have a say. You’re making up ‘rules’ that make polygamy appear to be something that it isn’t… polygamy is simply the act of one person marrying and living with several others. If you can’t find anything (specifically) wrong with that then polygamy should be legal. You can’t point to AN abuse within A particular polygamous relationship as a reason – it’s an exception and not the rule. The rule is simply “multiple wives or husbands”.

    “It just seems curious to me that men are such staunch defenders of legalized polyamory”

    Are you aware that Chimera is a woman?

  30. 30
    Chimera Says:

    “When other women are hurt, then I am hurt.”

    That just might be the most self-serving excuse I’ve ever seen for giving yourself permission to poke your nose into other peoples’ lives, where you are not wanted.

    Nobody asked you to mind-meld with anyone else. And as an argument for societal interference, I don’t buy it for a minute. Men don’t act that way, so why should women?

  31. 31
    Safa Rigby Says:

    Happy and fulfilled in polygamy? That reminds me of how my mother makes beds with the hospital corners….the sheets all tucked in nice. And what to we do when we sleep in those beds? We pull out the sheets with our feet because it’s too restricting…that’s what we do.

    Whether or not I was conned into polygamy doesn’t mean that my hurting doesn’t count. I survived in that relationship 2 years after I got the phone call.

    Polygamy is a crime in Canada. And because the imam, Aly Hindy OPENLY admit that he marries people, he needs to be made an example of.

    He’s registered to marry people leagally in Canada….how confusing is it that he can and DOES perform 2nd illegal marriages??? He even has the gall to give certificates with numbers on it that look like real marriage certificates. Isn’t that flouting Canadian law?

    If our gov’t lets this slide under the table, I’ll bring my 5 children to them…..who are suffering…..and then I’ll even get Mr. Boutaya to bring his children…….

    I’m waiting to see where this will go…..and I’m not impressed!

  32. 32
    ordinaryguy Says:

    Well, well. The Fed and BC gov’ts, the researchers _and_ quite a few of the respondents here seem to be blithely mixing definitions. This results in some awful confusion as I read it. To cap that, there certainly is conflation or confusion of issues here and elsewhere. Some here have commented on that.

    Not all that starts with Poly is the same. Said by a polyonymous, minor polymath who doesn’t need a polygraph to observe:

    1. Polyamory. Affection and loving, whether sexual or not, amongst aware, free, consenting adults in multiple relationships. This may be in a communal setting or not. This to many polyamorists is not swinging, it is also most assuredly not adultery or cheating. To state it from a monogamist point of view, it is responsible non-monogamy. This is not new, it’s simply becoming more visible as normal folks begin to feel more comfortable talking about their lives in a society which is seemingly more accepting of diversity.

    2. Polygny. What most mean to discuss or speak about in the context of this discussion. Multiple wives version of polygamy.

    3. Polyandry. Unseen to many. Multiple husbands version of polygamy. While a fundamental aspect of Polygamy, not as visible or likely even considered by many as the colloquial use of Polygamy for Polygny hides this.

    3. Polygamy, an old term once used to describe Polygny. It’s continued use in this form does not clarify, communicate or educate. Why does this matter? It muddies the water and confuses further as we take one literal token to represent something else.

    4. Polygny/”Polygamy” as such a descriptor has seemingly come to include coercion, submission and lack of personal control and awareness. The gov’t got sloppy, yes, years ago, by describing “these people” when speaking of FLDS, Bountiful residents and others simply as “Polygamists”. That is one characteristic.

    5. Given that it appears abuse, coercion (including lack of freedom to choose who one would marry, live with)(including undue influence by those with power of position, institution, age, etc. also known as harassment which includes but is not limited to sexual harassment), lack of equality (amongst people in general however also gender inequality), lack of self determination (including in education and role in life/community), polygny, religious freedoms (as perceived by one party), religious persecution (also as perceived), sexual abuse, have ALL seemingly been conflated and assumed as synonymous or a (non)functional means to describe _one_ situation it is time for some clarity. If not we’ll uselessly argue about that part of the elephant we perceive, expecting everyone else to know what we mean, feel and think.

    As a polyamorist I see no issues with polygamy (or therefore with polygny or polyandry). I and many other polamorists don’t need polygamy to be legal, just not illegal. If a paradigm shift is required to address social or employment benefits, fraud and abuse of the system by folks with recognised multiple partners or relationships, so be it.

    I am against coercion, abuse, sexual abuse, harassment, sexual harassment, inequality, suppression of choice and a number of other points being mixed in with what people are calling “Polgyamy”.

    The message delivered by the media will not be lost if the story were to be addressed as Coerced Polygny. The research would be better communicated to society and serve society better if it was addressed thusly. The intent of our governments would be clearer if they accurately identified what they suggest we accept, move to, move away from, “allow” or what they are going to pursue, persecute or prosecute, on our behalf.

    Yes, polygamy should be removed as a crime from the CCC. No, underage, arranged, abusive relationships should not be condoned. Adults shall also continue to be responsible for themselves.

    Thanks


RSS Feed for this entry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: