Polygamy Around the World | happywives's Blog
Polygamy Around the World
Reprinted from: http://www.religious-freedoms.org/polygamy_around_the_world.htm
Polygamy Around the World:
Globally, Polygamy Is Commonplace
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
Sunday, September 20, 1998
Muslims are leaving the village for the city and adopting urban lifestyles, plural marriage is declining. When money becomes the basis of an economy, or when nuclear families replace an extended family network, the practice declines.
"They urge a man to take them as wives."
Elvira Kurayeva, a 35-year-old physician, said she became the second wife of a prominent Dagestani leader for the mere reason that she could not bear the thought of having a child out of wedlock.
"My brothers would kill me in disgrace if I had a child without being married,"
WASHINGTON -- Polygamy may be banned by the state constitution and abolished by the predominant religion, but it is still practiced by ultra-orthodox followers of the faith, some who want it made lawful to avoid sticky legal and moral questions. Sounds like Utah, but it's Israel. Political pressure to loosen the prohibition on polygamy for Sephardi Jews who came to Israel from Muslim countries is growing, a researcher told the American Anthropological Association's annual meeting, which concluded Sunday in the nation's capital. But the push in Israel for legalized "polygyny," the alternative term for having more than one wife at one time, stems not from a shortage of marriage-age men, an abundance of single women or an upswing in demand for multiple brides. Anthropologist S. Zev Kalifon of Bar-Ilan University in Israel said the call by former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph to legalize polygyny is part of a political movement to restore conservative traditions and lash out against popular notions of social equality. "They feel that the secular world which they met in Israel when they immigrated in the 1950s destroyed the patriarchal Sephardi family and its values," said Kalifon. "The ban on polygyny is seen as something modern, an expression of western or European values." Stories in the Old Testament indicate polygamy was an accepted part of the social order and is technically legal under Jewish law. But the practice has been banned for Jews in Europe since the 11th century, when rabbinate leaders sought to ease tensions between Jews and their Christian neighbors, who considered polygamy barbaric. Kalifon said the view of polygamy for the Jewish people differed significantly from that of early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced the practice by the turn of the 20th century. "What Joseph Smith and Brigham Young did was make polygyny an ideal, with an ideal man having more than one wife," he said. "In Judaism, it is permitted but definitely not encouraged, [and] was never considered an ideal." While European or "Ashkenazi" Jews adopted the rabbinical adjustment to ban polygamy as a binding tradition, the Sephardi Jews outside of Europe continued to take second wives. Two wives is the "unspoken cap" for Sephardi Jews, said Kalifon. Polygamy among Jews is not limited to Sephardim. Jews living in the predominantly Arab country of Yemen still practice polygamy under the belief that Israel's rabbis are wrong in their prohibition of plural marriage. Yemeni Jews have an "unspoken cap" of four wives, rather than two. "If a man can satisfy four women at the same time, then good for him," the Yemeni chief rabbi in Raydah, Yemen, told the Associated Press last year. Another group of polygamists associating with Judaism are the "Black Hebrews," some 2,000 African-Americans who emigrated illegally from urban Chicago to Israel in the early 1970s, claiming to be descendants of "one of the lost tribes of Israel." Besides practicing polygamy, the members are strict vegetarians and eat only raw food for four weeks each year. When Israel became a state in 1949, the ban on polygamy became legally binding on all Jewish residents. Yet some Sephardi Jews in Israel continue to take second wives in "underground" marriages performed by rabbis who oppose the legal ban. Kalifon said these plural marriages by Sephardi Jews have created a mire of legal problems. Kalifon doubts any groundswell of would-be polygamist Sephardim is the motivation behind Rabbi Yoseph's campaign, given that most of his congregants are poor immigrants who are unable to support multiple wives. "Polygyny, if done right, is a good way to go bankrupt," said Kalifon. He contends the pro-polygamy movement is spurred more by moral issues than legal, financial or demographic concerns. "Advocating polygyny reminds these [Ashkenazim] rabbis that they 'gave in' to outside pressures, changed tradition to fit in to the European world and strayed from the way of our forefathers," said Kalifon. "Polygyny says that Sephardi Jews are closer to the tradition, purer in their observation of Judaism and less assimilated into the modern world. The desire to reinstate polygyny can be seen as a symbol of the uniqueness of the Sephardi religious worldview and a test of their growing political strength."
Muslim fights to make three wives legal by Jason Burke British ban on polygamy faces challenge in human rights court Medi Siadatan has it all: nine children, two acclaimed restaurants, one faith and three wives. But Siadatan is not happy. Though a respected Walsall businessman, by being polygamous he is forced to live outside the law. Siadatan wants the British legal system to recognise that a man has the right to be married to four partners. And he wants the law to guarantee multiple wives the same rights as any other spouse. He is launching a challenge to the British laws against polygamy in a move regarded as a test case. The Iranian-born restaurateur claims that the law violates his rights to religious freedom and has hired a French lawyer to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. He married each of his three wives, aged 38, 32 and 26 respectively, in a simple Muslim ceremony. Under Islamic law, a man is permitted to have up to four wives. 'We would all feel a lot better if our marriage was legally recognised,' he said. 'Just as a lion has four females in his pride so a man can take up to four women. It is in man's nature to take more than one partner.' Susan Vogel, a Birmingham-based solicitor who specialises in family law and has worked closely with the city's Asian community, said that the 1998 Human Rights Act could 'conceivably' provide some justification for Siadatan's case. Many Muslims say the case encapsulates the debate over whether minorities have the right to follow their own customs or should conform to established British traditions. 'Polygamy is a very difficult issue for many British liberals,' said Fuad Nahti, editor of the Muslim magazine Q-News . 'It challenges the secular establishment. It pushes the boundaries of multiculturalism.' Khalida Khan, director of An-Nisa, a Muslim women's group, said that there needed to be a reappraisal of the law to incorporate more of the values of Britain's ethnic and religious minorities. 'At the moment there is a parallel legal system that is completely unrecognised by the state,'she said. The issue is also important to other ethnic and religious communities. Some marriages conducted according to the rites of Judaism and Hinduism are also not legally recognised. Children of such unions can find themselves deprived of inheritance or other legal rights. Opponents of any change to British laws say that they protect those who may be coerced into marriages. Siadatan's three wives, however, profess total support for their husband. 'We are all behind him in want ing to have our marriages legally recognised,' Cinzia, his first wife, said. 'Medi is a very honest man and we don't mind sharing him. If a man feels committed to more than one woman then there shouldn't be any legal obstacles in his way.' Siadatan says he tried a conventional marriage after arriving in Britain from Italy in 1975, but hated all the lying when he took up a mistress. 'So I told her the truth and the mistress moved in with us, but it didn't work out because the jealousy was so terrible.' He said: 'I decide during the day who I am going to be sleeping with. It depends how I am feeling. I don't have a rota system and occcasionally the four of us push the double beds together.'
By Nabi Abdullaev
Perhaps the largest harem in Dagestan belonged to Amirchupan of Kaitag, an
18th-century feudal lord who married 18 women.
An outnumbering of women to men in the pre-Soviet Caucasus, which closely
resembled the post-Soviet demographic crisis sweeping Russia, helped fuel the
proliferation of polygamy, Seferbekov said.
Polygamy was outlawed in Muslim-populated areas by the Soviets, and those caught
with more than one wife faced a year behind bars. Criminal prosecution was done away
with in 1998, but the practice is still banned in the Family Code.
Nationalist Duma lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky tried to amend the law last November,
arguing that multiple marriages would stimulate the country's falling birth rate. His bill
Regional authorities in the Northern Caucasus have also attempted to put polygamy
on a legal footing. In July 1999, the Ingush parliament approved a regional law
permitting residents to marry up to four women. The law was annulled by the Ingush
Supreme Court a year later, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian republics to
bring their legislation in line with federal laws.
The well-off in the Northern Caucasus get around the law by registering only their first
marriages with the government. Subsequent marriages are registered in their mosques.
Regional government agencies rarely object, mainly because many in their ranks are
"Most of the high- and medium-level officials in Dagestan have two and more
families," said Sakinat, 38, the second wife of a deputy in the Dagestani parliament. She
asked that her last name not be used.
"Polygamy is especially popular among top police officers," said Sakinat, who is a
university professor. "These men are not afraid of any prosecution."
There are exceptions, but usually the second wives belong to a certain social group,
said Khadizhat Kanayeva, head of the Women's Crisis Center in Makhachkala.
"As a rule, they are well-educated urban women in their 30s with developed
personalities and, as they say, with a female 'zest,'" Kanayeva said. "Such women
respond to the self-esteem demands of the new rich, who usually lack a cultural
In the Northern Caucasus, where people are still clannish, the first wife is a tribute to a
clan, Kanayeva said. The first wife takes care of the children and provides link between
the husband and his own clan. The purpose of the second wife is to please him, she
"But educated women today do not approve of the status of mistresses," she added.
"They urge a man to take them as wives."
Elvira Kurayeva, a 35-year-old physician, said she became the second wife of a
prominent Dagestani leader for the mere reason that she could not bear the thought of
having a child out of wedlock.
"My brothers would kill me in disgrace if I had a child without being married,"
She got married at the age of 31, which local traditions deem as too old for a first
"Now I have a son and a family life, and it is better than nothing," she said.
Sakinat said the arrangement of being a second wife suited her and her family.
"I am from a respected family in Makhachkala," Sakinat said. "Being someone's
mistress would be a stain on the family's reputation, while my being a second wife was
fine with everybody."
Some Dagestani women find money to be enough of an attraction to become a second
"I would rather be the second wife of a rich man than let my future children grow up
envying their wealthy peers," said Madina Akhmedova, 21, a student at a
Several of her classmates agreed.
But more often, said Kanayeva of the crisis center, women agree to become second
wives because of love.
"Women still seek romance. They hope for good, and they are ready to sacrifice
themselves for their feelings," she said. "But one day, their love makes them my
Kanayeva said she had been providing counseling to dozens of second wives who
suffer from the depression of learning their husbands have stepped into third
"The second wives have a lower social status than the first ones and they are more
intelligent," Kanayeva said. "For them, knowing that their sacrifice was made in vain, is
Sakinat recently felt the harsh reality of seeing her husband tie the knot with wife No.
"I thought I would die from my feelings of betrayal after my husband took a
19-year-old girl as his third wife," she said bitterly. "She is just a new toy for him."
For many men, their decisions are not to be questioned. In this society, men wear the
pants in the family, or families as the case may be.
"My first wife gave birth to four girls, and I lost hope of having a son with her," said
Makhmud Makhmudov, 45, a taxi driver. "I then decided to take a new wife and take
my chances with her."
Makhmud said he is happy now. He got a son.
Associated Press December 14, 2001
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Hajj Metwalli has three wives and is considering a fourth. He's happy, his wives consider themselves lucky, and the soap opera about their fictional lives has set off a debate across the Arab world about polygamy, Islam and love.
The daily drama, "The Family of Hajj Metwalli," was the most watched program on Egyptian television and drew wide audiences on at least 12 other Arab channels during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, traditionally a stage for splashy TV shows.
Islam allows men to take up to four wives on the condition that he treat each equally. But critics argue that being fair to four women is impossible outside Metwalli's charmed and fictional life.
Yehia Khalil, an Egyptian jazz musician, is no fan. He didn't like the idea of Metwalli's lifestyle dominating the small screen during Ramadan, when families are glued to their TV sets more than the rest of the year.
"We don't need this backward idea that money buys everything, including women. There was no mention of love in those marriages," Khalil said.
Mustafa Moharam, the series' script writer, said he was happy he had succeeded in getting people talking.
"I wanted to throw a stone in stagnant waters, I meant to push people to think and discuss relations between husbands and wives and the controversial issue of polygamy," Moharam said.
He added he wanted to encourage marriage, as he believes that the number of single people from both sexes is alarming.
"Unmarried women suffer much more than the first, the second or even the third wife," Moharam said.
His Metwalli is a rich fabrics merchant in his late 50s. The wives dance at each others' weddings and live in harmony in the same building - albeit in separate luxury apartments Metwalli visits according to a strict schedule.
"I'm very upset because this series is forging religious consciousness, deforming the value of marriage, and humiliating women by presenting them as objects and slaves," said Zeinab Radwan, who teaches religion at Cairo University.
"Are we promoting the culture of the harem at the beginning of the 21st century? What is this backwardness?" wrote leftist journalist Farida Al-Naqash.
Nowadays, polygamy is uncommon in Arab and Islamic countries. It is legal in countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but banned in Tunisia and Turkey.
In Egypt, a country of more than 67 million people, "The Family of Hajj Metwalli" is interrupted with government ads encouraging birth control and promoting the idea that girls are equal to boys.
Maraam Yehia Barqawi, a 35-year-old Jordanian homemaker, said she enjoys watching the series as a well-produced drama, but hopes it doesn't encourage men to marry again and again.
"I would kill my husband if he ever thinks of marrying another woman," she said.
Not all women agree.
Nahida Abdu-Salam, a single Iraqi government employee, 30, said that "Metwalli treats his wives fairly and kindly. He is able to meet all the financial needs of his women and children. I think no woman should ask more than this."
Film critic Tarek El-Shenawi doesn't like the series, but said, "No doubt every man has a part of Hajj Metwalli in him, even if he doesn't reveal it."
Reuters January 24, 2002
They said Sayed Ragab al-Sawirki, owner of a chain of stores selling clothes and home appliances, was sentenced along with six others who played a role in Sawirki's complicated marital situation.
The investigation showed that Sawirki had five wives at once and had married 19 women, although not all at the same time, the officials said.
Under Islamic law, men can be married to as many as four wives. But polygamy is not widely practiced in Egypt and a recent television comedy series in which the main character married four women sparked heated debate about the practice.
The Koran, the Muslim holy book, says a man can have four wives as long as he treats them equally. It then makes the observation that this task is impossible. Some schools of Islamic thought believe the passage shows polygamy is not allowed.
The other people sentenced by the court included two clerks. One received a one-month jail sentence and the other a two-year prison term, both for forgery.
Fayez Saad, the father of the fifth wife, Salwa, was fined $43 for forging the birth certificate of his daughter, then 14, so she could marry below the legal age of 16.
Another of the wives, Dina Shukri, received a three-year jail term with hard labor for illegally marrying Sawirki a fourth time after previously divorcing him three times.
Under Islamic law, a woman who divorces the same man three times cannot remarry him again unless she has married a different man in the intervening period.
Shukri's two brothers also received three years each for signing the marriage certificate.
Chu still lives with his first wife, who acts as a "general supervisor" for the community.
Polygamy Around the World, posted October 22nd, 2007, 1 comment
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POLYGAMY BLOG, posted October 11th, 2007
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