Polygamy is the practice of a man taking more than one wife at the same time. Polyandry is when a woman takes more that one husband at the same time. Polyandry is rare compared to polygamy, because it is only known to be inexistence in two parts of the world. One is among the Nair people who are inhabitants of India?s Malabar Coast. The other is in Tibet, where a woman can take her husband?s brothers as her mates. This paper will be focused strictly on the debate over polygamy. It does more harm than good and should be banned and enforced strongly within the United States? borders.
Being married to more than one person at the same time has been illegal in the U.S. since 1862, but has not been enforced strictly. The Mormon Church is well known for practicing polygamy, but the church banned it in 1980. Over a period of forty years, the church endured serious federal efforts to crack down on the practice of polygamy. Dr. Irwin Altman, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City say, ?Today there are some twenty thousand to forty thousand people who are practicing polygamy in the state of Utah.? He also states, ?Some forty years ago, the numbers were within the hundreds or low thousands.? It has also been estimated that there is an equal amount scattered around the rest of the United States. This number is said to be as large as a hundred thousand people, just in America alone. Most of these people reside in the western states of the United States.
The patriarch figure in these unions usually does one of two things when it comes to additional wives. He either marries his first wife legally and then is sealed to the other wives, in a religious ceremony or he divorces one wife (but stays with her) before he marries another wife and repeats this process. So these men seek a civil marriage license only once and the brides to follow are taken in private religious ceremonies. In other words, since they do not have legal marriage licenses, they have no right under the government to have these marriages. Also the husband has two choices when it comes to the living arrangements as well. He can keep the entire family in a single home, whereas other polygamy husbands may have each of his wives living under different roofs. When it comes to spending time with each of his wives and his children, there is a schedule that everyone follows, but it is flexible and can be moved around to fit almost everyone?s needs. Carmen Thompson, a former wife of a Mormon polygamist says, ?Depending on the number of wives a man has he usually spends one night out of the week with each wife and her children by him.? When special events come up everyone does their best to make accommodations. It is extremely hard for birthdays and anniversaries to fit into the schedule and so they are pretty much nonexistent.
Carmen Thompson said that on her honeymoon one of the other wives came to visit. This other wife wanted to have another child, and her ideal breeding time just happened to fall right in the middle of the honeymoon. So the new wife had to watch the children while the other wife spent the night with the husband, in the bedroom. How many women would want this to happen to them on their honeymoon? Many polygamous groups believe that a woman should have a baby every year. The idea is that there are spirits in heaven waiting to get a body to come to earth in, and if they are not born into a Mormon family, they will be born into a bad family, one that is not Mormon.
The fathers usually force their teenage daughters to marry once they have started their menstrual cycle. On an average these younger girls are about fourteen years old. The number has, however gone as low as the age of nine, when a girl is married off. Keep in mind that most of these girls have never known things to be any different. Most of them feel that this is the way the world is, and that everybody leaves like this, or at least, this is the will of God.
If someone ever objects to these polygamous standards then they are harshly punished for disobeying God?s wishes. Earlier Mormon scripture states that God came to Joseph Smith in a vision and told him that in order for anyone to get into the Celestial City, Heaven, they would have to be married to a polygamist husband. Joseph Smith later became the founder of the Mormon Church and religion. Carmen Thompson?s husband told her that God gave him the revelation that if any of his wives think that they can leave and make it in the outside world; He?s going to take them off this planet. This meaning that the husband would kill anyone of his wives that decided to leave him. If they did want to get out of the relationship, then they were also told that they were just acting irrational. Or they were told that they were just jealous of the other wives. If a wife had these feelings she was told that she was disobeying God. To rebel against polygamy was to rebel against God and there was not anything worse then rebelling against God. Most Mormon doctrines dictate that a woman must be totally submissive to her husband. So many wives feel that they have no choice but to do whatever their husband wants. Plus if one wife would not do what the husband wanted, then he could always ask one of the other wives to do it instead.
Some say polygamy is a victimless crime, but that is not true. If a man believes that he is God in his house, pretty soon he is going to end up treating his wives like children who have to, according to him, be disciplined. Statistics show that polygamous wives reported that their husbands started becoming abusive towards them and/or their children once that wife started questioning the husband?s absolute authority. Many women stay in these bad situations, because of their children. They do not want their children growing up without a father in their lives. However, once the husband starts abusing the children, then the wives feel that things have gone too far and they finally decide to break away, but not at all for the women?s sake but for her children instead. The question is to what extent does freedom of religion go hand in hand with women?s freedom and to what extent the freedom of women is restricted by polygamy. Also many debates are centered on women?s rights and the potential for abuse in a polygamous marriage.
Tapestry of Polygamy, an anti-polygamy group that is made up of women who used to be married to polygamists, maintain that polygamy makes victims out of women and puts children in harm?s way. It was founded in 1998 and the group was named for the pattern their stories create when woven together. The majority of their work is counseling men and women that want to leave polygamous marriages, and they also push for enforcements of Utah?s laws that ban polygamy. Within the last year, more than three hundred women followed the example of the former polygamist wives in the Tapestry, and left their plural marriage. The organization receives over two dozen calls from women and even some men who need someone to talk to about their polygamist religion. The Tapestry of Polygamy states that, ?polygamy is the biggest con in the world, men are in it for sex, not religion.?
Polygamy also means poverty, because there are so many children in the family, and the husband often does not hold a job. The husband has no reason to hold a job. This is because many of these husbands are spending each day of the week with a different wife and children. They stay the night with the wife so they do not have to pay rent. The wife provides that day?s meals so there is no need for food or utility bills either. So in other words, the husband lives off his wives.
There are other countries, besides America, that have polygamy being practiced within them. In Uganda, Africa polygamy is common. The statistics in this country say that between forty to fifty percent of unions are polygamous. In the rural areas it has become an economic necessity, since multiple wives and children provide unpaid farm labor. The right of a man to take as many wives as he wishes is even protected under law, provided he could secure their comfort. However there have been studies that show that in many cases a second wife is put into humiliating roles, pushed aside, and her property is confiscated.
In Uganda though there are more and more women who are challenging this practice. The FIDA, which is the Ugandan Association of Women Lawyers, has drafted a fifty-four page that defines the rights before, during, and after a marriage. The Law Reform Commission set out to regulate polygamous unions. It recommends that each man be restricted to two wives and that the need for a second wife must be justified in front of a Family and Children Court first. Some say that the argument is not about wives, it is about letting people marry according to their beliefs. Beliefs should be healthy and not harm others or society. If it were someone?s belief to kill their wife after a year and then remarry and repeat this ever year, would it be tolerated and allowed.
Islamic laws permit a man to take up to four wives, but there are strict conditions that this is allowed to take place under. He must go before an Islamic religious court and prove he will be able to afford it, will be fair and just to all of his wives, and he will not cause harm to the existing wife and the existing children. Some opposing views are that Islam?s code of law says that men have the right to four wives and that any limitation of that right would create a huge violation of the freedom of religion. However the rules and laws of Islam may end up changing a little bit, because the Prime Minister of Islam, Mahathir Muhammad has been notably outspoken on the subject of polygamy. Some Parliament members have suggested that polygamy has been justified because women outnumbered men in the country of Malaysia by fourteen to one. However, the statistic department reported there were actually more Muslim men than women in the country. So women outnumbering men is no longer a strong enough opposing statement.
There are so many things about polygamy that are different and just not right compared to a conventional marriage. The sexuality behind closed doors is not intimate, because the wife knows that he is just following his schedule and that yesterday and tomorrow he will be with a different woman. It is nearly impossible to give yourself one hundred percent to a man who you know for the next six nights will be sleeping with about six different women. Some say that in sharing a husband you are not losing anything, but instead you are gaining salvation and sister-wives. Yes the woman gain sister-wives who can help with the children and household duties, but is it worth all the negativity that goes hand in hand with this kind of marriage. Yet to others polygamy represents a tie to an earlier time when their pioneering forefathers came to the west side of America and began a new future there. Today?s world is not the same as it was for their forefathers. Things do change and people need to realize this. Also just because a generation before us did a certain thing, does not make it right, and it certainly does not mean that we have to follow in those footsteps as well.