Utah reckons it’s home to thousands of polygamists, all following their interpretation of Mormon religious teachings, but in contravention of current Mormon practices — and the law.
So, while governments in Uganda and Iraqi Kurdistan debate banning polygamous marriages altogether to protect women from abuse and exploitation, “fundamentalist” Mormons in the American Southwest are seeking the reverse: the decriminalization of the practice, which they say is voluntary, not forced.
In fact, Reuters reports that this push for decriminalization also includes provisions to stamp out forced marriages and underage brides.
In Iraq, Kurdish women groups are mostly lineup up against polygamy, which was legal for most of the nation throughout the Hussein era, and is supported by men and women there to this day.
Based on Islamic-derived law, Iraqi men can have up to four wives, but must prove to a judge that they can support all of them, and that the women will be treated equally.
While some Kurds feel it is a human-rights priority to ban polygamy, others, including women, say it can be beneficial in cases of infertility, chronic illness, or when a prospective bride cannot find an eligible, and single, groom.
In Uganda, polygamy is legal, and until recently adultery was as well — for men only. Women who had extramarital affairs, on the other hand, faced jail time.
Now, polygamy is considered by many Ugandans to be a precondition for male promiscuity at a time when AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are spreading rapidly throughout Africa
Women’s E-News reports that the Ugandan Constitutional Court recently overturned the law making adultery legal for men, and in the process strengthened women’s divorce and inheritance rights as well.
Activists there say they are emboldened, and are now turning their sights on the widespread and legal practice of polygamy, as well.
“Fundamental Mormons seek recognition for polygamy”
Reuters, June 13, 2007
“Ugandan adultery law curbs effects of polygamy”
Women’s E-News, June 24, 2007
“Kurdish leaders debate polygamy ban”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, June 22, 2007