21 January 2009

Law and Order: Polygamy

Daphne and I abhor polygamy, especially as it is practised in Bountiful; it's harmful to everyone except the few men in power. Women, girls and 'leftover' boys are all hurt.

And we would never choose polygamy for ourselves. (In fact, we're done with marriage altogether). But then we've grown up in a system in which polygamy/polyandry is illegal and those who practise it are ostracized by mainstream society.

That said, we are against the outlawing of polygamy. Because we are against governments intervening in personal relationships. Period.

Crimes which are done in ANY relationship are punishable by law. Therefore, when underage girls are forced to wed, women and girls are abused, and boys who are deemed in excess are abandoned, then the law should go after the perpetrators of such crimes. No relationship is or should be treated as immune to the law.

That Bountiful has got away with so much is more a testament to the lack of political will (or male envy), since the existence of Bountiful profits certain people and communities.

Polygamy itself, though, shouldn't be deemed a crime. That two people forming a union has been the traditional view of marriage in Canada doesn't warrant Canadian tradition being the arbiter of what's right and what's not. Views and societies change.

Women in North America ordinarily shudder at the notion of living a polygamous life. But Daphne and I can imagine why some women might freely choose it, particularly in countries where marriages are arranged and where love doesn't enter into the equation.

For example, in terms of biology there are only so many 'prime' or Grade A males to go around. So some women might prefer to share a prime male with other women rather than trade that option for a male of her own who is, genetically speaking, of Grade B rather than Grade A quality. Since women also tend to bond in personal relationships more than men do, the sisterhood of wives could meet that need.

On the other hand, we challenge the whole idea of marriage. First of all, the title of wife holds only one meaning, that of being a married woman, especially when considered with reference to her husband. And husband is defined as a) the man one is married to and b) to manage carefully. The word itself is Old English for "hus" - house - and "bonda" - head of the family.

Since we are women, we strongly resent being tied to anyone who would be considered the "head of the family", which puts us under his (or her) careful management. Marriage, polygamy or any form of restraint on our being a full person in our own right devalues us and keeps us in our place in the accepted patriarchal society that is the norm, worldwide. It doesn't equate in any way to "equality."

That said, the choice is up to the individual woman should she wish to share a husband or be married. Ergo, polygamy/polyandry should not be made a criminal offence.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

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