Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Polygyny in Kazakhstan

This article says that “Polygamy A Fact Of Life In Kazakhstan.”

With power comes privilege, and with privilege comes polygamy.

Polygamy should be available to all who want it. If three or more people want to be connected in a marriage/marriages, they should be allowed.

Technically, polygamy is illegal in Kazakhstan, and has been ever since Soviet authorities banned it 90 years ago this month. But while elsewhere in Central Asia having multiple spouses is a criminal offense, carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison, in Kazakhstan polygamy has been decriminalized since 1998.

Any laws impeding the freedom of consenting adults to marry should be discarded on the ash heap of history sooner rather than later.

This has helped fuel a spectacular comeback that began two decades ago with the fall of communism.

The practice -- especially among the powerful or well-heeled -- has become part of the social fabric for Kazakhs, who say polygamy is on the rise both in cities and villages. There have been multiple attempts to legalize it, although none have yet made it through parliament.

Instead, it happens with social and religious, but not legal recognition.

Shynar-apai, a 57-year-old housewife who lives outside the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent, says she doesn't mind polygamous marriages "one bit."

Shynar-apai shares a sizeable family home, five children, and her husband with two other women -- her husband's younger wives.

"I don't see any problem with men having more than one wife as long as they treat all wives equally and are able to provide financial support for all of them," she says.

A husband shouldn’t be required to financially support his spouse if that spouse has career or investment income. That should be something they work out themselves, not outsiders. It may be that the wife or wives financially support the husband(s).

"In our family we don't divide anything. All our children call us, the three wives, 'mother.' We go to places together and take turns in doing housework."

Speaking from the point of a "baibishe," Shynar-apai says she prefers men who are openly polygamous to those who have affairs and lie about them. She says these mistresses and their children "have no rights, get no support from the man."

That’s an absurdity that more and more people are seeing.

A bill on "Marriage and Family" seeking to legalize polygamous marriages returned to parliament in 2008. But once again it failed to pass after coming under strong criticism from female lawmakers, notably Bakhyt Syzdykova, a young deputy and woman's rights activist.

"If you want to legalize polygamy then you would also have to legalize polyandrous marriages -- women having multiple husbands simultaneously," Syzdykova argued. "Otherwise, you would violate our constitution, which gives equal rights to men and women."

All forms of polygamy between consenting adults should be legal. That is part of full marriage equality.
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