Polygamy is illegal in Canada but to date no one has been arrested or faced the consequences for being in a polygamist relationship. This inaction has led to no enforcement of the law. Such policies allow polygamist families to legally enter Canada by declaring the first wife as the legal wife and the second, third and fourth “wives” as dependents along with their children.
Young girls are pushed in polygamy relationships by the leaders of their parents’ religion. A wave of women involved in polygamy fled from Bountiful (BC) and presented their case publicly. Books and articles were written by these brave women. They disused the effects of polygamy on their lives and their children, they talked about women’s oppression, sexual abuse and of men’s aggression towards young girls. They described child sexual abuse masquerading as a marriage and child trafficking for the purpose of marriage. Some courageous women went even further and discussed the effects of polygamy in society at large. Sadly no law enforcement was involved in any of these cases, even though Act 293 was present on the law books.
Now after all the reports by these women bringing attention to the plight of being caught in a polygamy relationship, and after all the evidence of injustice, discrimination and abuse, something is actually happening. But not for women and children who have suffered in polygamy relationships, not for the ones who put their lives in danger by presenting their cases to media. Instead the situation allows for further victimization of women and compromising women’s right for the sake of religious rights. This is a disgrace to humanity.
Today there was a challenge over Section 293 of the Criminal Code in the British Columbia Supreme Court. The attempt was to de-criminalize polygamy. The distressing part is that the attempt was said to be beneficial for women! The following are some statements that have been put forward under the name of women’s rights !
· Polygamy laws actually helped enable abuse in closed, religious communities such as the one in Bountiful. – Beverley Baines
· Women in legal polygamous marriage will not be able to immigrate to Canada. – Beverley Baines
· The door is legally closed for women in Canada who want to terminate their polygamous relationship. – Beverley Baines
· Because Canada has adopted a policy of multiculturalism, it follows that Canada needs to adapt laws to accommodate the diversity of the population. – Beverley Baines
The reality is the law in Canada needs to be more progressive which means a move more towards gender equality that is not based on an assumption of gender equality as we are far behind it. Some residents involved in polygamy in Canada still follow the 7th century tradition of Sharia law, and some remain hundred years behind the civilized world. The authorities need to enforce progressive laws and regulations or else women will never be able to gain full and unconditional equality. Only by putting in place laws and progressive measures women will be able to gain complete equality in Canada. I am for repealing of any law and regulation that restricts the rights of women and puts them in position as second class citizens.
It should be known to everyone by now that women in Islamic communities are pressured by their family, members of the community and religion to become involved in a degrading relationship such as polygamy. In these communities, men are considered as “head of the family”. He is in charge of the family’s finance, choice of residence, up–bringing of the children, and control of the social interaction of his wife and children. Can anyone see gender equality in this picture? That is not all, men have right to marry more than one wife and many seegheh (temporary wives). Women in these sects, cults or Islamic communities would never, ever have the right to have two or three husbands at the same time. The consequences of getting emotionally involved with another man is harsh, sometimes as harsh as losing their life or being disowned by all members of their community. Women are forbidden to see their own children. All these injustices are happening in all provinces of Canada.
I am perplexed how someone can call oneself a concerned global citizen but close her or his eyes to the inhuman treatment of women and children.
After 100 years of having a law that makes polygamy illegal in Canada, polygamy still goes on. It is not the fault of Act 293. It is because although the Act is on the law books, it has never been enforced by the police and the court system. I believe for the past seventy years only one case went through the court system in this regard.
Polygamy needs to remain illegal but Act 293 needs to be amended. Right now the assumption of this Act is that women and men have gained gender equality and women willingly enter into these relationships. The truth is because of the adopted policy of multiculturalism, some sects and cults who have been living in this country for past century never had chance to live according to today’s progressive ways of living. The policy of multiculturalism has put thick invisible walls between communities. Each community lives according to their home country culture, traditions and religion. They are encouraged to do so. In some cases these communities receive financial support and validation from the Canadian government in order to keep their way of living instead of integrating in Canadian society.
In all these equations, there is no consideration for women’s rights. It should not come to our surprise if we hear or witness women are set on fire and are burnt for losing their virginity, young girls and women face honour killings for not being obedient or for having a boyfriend in Canada. Child trafficking for the sake of marriage is another down side of multiculturalism.
Therefore as long as the policy of multiculturalism maintains in Canada, gender equality is out of picture, so to prosecute women who are involved in polygamy relationships is a joke. I believe Act 293 prosecutes women and men equally for being in polygamist relationship. As I said it before, the assumption is that men and women have an equal say in their marriage. Most women involved in polygamy relationship have no control over their body and mind. The right of choice has been taken from them right from birth by their parents, culture, and religion.
It is justified to say the Act 293 must get amended in such a way that all men or anyone who performs or assists in polygamy marriages must be arrested and prosecuted for the crime against women and children.
We need to get a lot tougher with polygamists and start prosecuting men and religious leaders who perform such a marriages. Polygamy is a disgrace to gender equality.
It has been said that to criminalize polygamy is against the Charter of Rights of Freedom of religion. Women’s rights and children’s rights must not be compromised under any circumstances and that includes religion. As everyone is aware, in Islam and some other restricted religions, child brides is an on going practice even in Canada, behind the closed doors by laws such as Sharia laws. But because it is an ongoing practice, we did not drop the Act for Universal Rights of the Child to suite Sharia law or of any other religion, for the sake of freedom of religion. Instead child brides are considered a crime and men caught in this matter would face charges for sexual assault. The same should go towards polygamy. Religions should be declared as private affair of the individuals and not allowed to interfere with any law in Canada. The civilization in 21st century should not tolerate interference of religion in laws and regulation.
I have been aware that a woman with two male common–law partners is challenging the polygamy law in Canada.
In response to this case I must say in this particular situation gender equality exists, all three parties have control over their own bodies and minds. They are all adults and there is no form of coercion to push them into this relationship. They all have equal rights in their family setting. They all equally make decisions concerning the family’s property and finances and all matters concerning cohabitation. They all participate in caring for children in their family. In this case free and consensual sexual relationship is undeniable right. They are completely free in deciding over their sexual relationship. Voluntary relationships of adults with each other are their private affair and no person or authority has the right to scrutinize it, interfere with it or make it public. I consider this relationship modern and progressive. This revolutionary relationship does not need any permission (marriage license) from the government or any religious leaders. This case is not comparable with adult women living in sects or cults or in Islamic communities in Canada. They can not be put in the same category. One belongs to today’s modern world while the other belongs to an ancient time. How else can one describe it, when adult women practically have no choice to choose their own partners? They are never able to live with two male partners, not even in their dreams.
In these closed communities women have no control over their sexuality and have to accept the husband her parents or the elder of her community chooses for her. And if she disagrees, she will face harsh consequences. No free women ever will agree to be in a relationship with someone she has no feeling for.
Polygamy in Canada should remain illegal and enforced by police in order to empower women and eliminate discrimination against women; in order to abolition of man’s privileges as the so-called “head of the household”. in order to prevent degradation and violent treatment of women and girls in the family. In order to eliminate any form of degrading, male-chauvinistic, patriarchal and unequal treatment of women in family, community and public institutions.
Nov. 25, 2010