Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oppressive Polygyny is Not All of Polygamy

There continues to be coverage in Canadian media about the legal issues surrounding polygamy. This article reduces it to the polygyny practiced by Muslims and the FLDS. The only voices in the article are negative ones.

Dena Hassouneh, a nurse practitioner and professor at the Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Nursing, was asked by the province to address the emotional, psychological and social impacts of polygamous relationships, compared to monogamous relationships.

Hassouneh, who like Hogben is Muslim herself, has published a paper titled, "Polygamy and Wife Abuse: A Qualitative Study of Muslim Women in America."

She studied 17 women in polygamous marriages and found they had greater frequency and severity of a variety of psychiatric symptoms, decreased marital satisfaction, and lower self-esteem.

"My work with women in the community indicates that the practice, more often than not, is a harmful one," she said in her affidavit. "Patriarchal family structures lend themselves to abuse of power regardless of whether they are monogamous or polygamous."

The last sentence is very telling. This really isn’t about polygamy. It is about polygyny as practiced under abusive conditions in which women are oppressed. The people being talked about abuse and oppress women, and they practice polygyny. They may also have dogs and beat dogs, but are the dogs beaten because of polygamy? No. They are beaten because these are abusive men.

My support for the right to polygamy is built entirely on the foundations of equality and consent, which means someone has to be old enough to consent. People, male or female, should have the freedom to marry the person or persons of their choice and to not be forced to marry anyone they don’t want to, or stay married to someone they no longer want as a spouse. And nobody should be hit, kicked, groped, penetrated, or in any way hurt against their will as a result of these decisions.

We need more coverage of poly people in general. Like any relationship, you can find poly people who have happy relationships as well as people who have rocky or abusive ones. The problem is, poly people who are happy are not going to call up a doctor or a counselor or a police station or domestic violence shelter and tell everyone what a great time they are having.
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