Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sam Woolfe is Another Ally For the Polygamous Freedom to Marry

Sam Woolfe at had a piece that asked, "Should Polygamy Be Legalized?"  He does a rather good job countering some of the typical misinformation about polygamy and polyamory used by those who want to deny people this freedom to marry and relationship rights.
Polygamy, or a marriage involving more than two partners, is illegal in most countries. Polygamous marriages may not be performed in the UK, and if one is performed then the already married person is guilty of the crime of bigamy. Bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with one person, whilst already being married to someone else.

I can understand having laws against defrauding someone by hiding an existing marriage or "secretly" entering into a new one while still married to someone who would not agree, but there should be no laws barring the polygamous freedom to marry when all involved agree.
 Where polygamy is legal, those who have entered into a polygamous marriage are still discriminated against – their marriage is not recognised for pension, immigration or citizenship purposes.

There are different forms of polygamy.

Wow! Finally, an article that does not take a "Muslim or Mormon-polygyny is the only form of polygamy" assumption.
For those who think that polygamy is illegal because it is unnatural, immoral or harmful should recognise that it is a common practice worldwide, and is even more common than monogamy. For example, the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook includes an analysis of 1,231 different societies. Out of all these societies, 186 were monogamous, 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had frequent polygyny, and 4 practised polyandry.

Group marriage is not so uncommon either. Christopher Ryan in his recent book, Sex At Dawn goes through the evidence which suggests that our ancestors preferred a multiple-mate system. Our ancestors were promiscuous, not in the sense of sleeping with strangers, but in the sense that an individual would have multiple mates at any given time. 
With all of that in mind, try not to snicker the next time someone pushing hetero-monogamy as the only acceptable relationship model for all refers to "traditional marriage."
The claim that polygamy should be illegal because it is immoral and harmful also loses validity when we look at this practice among indigenous cultures. As a case in point, the Mosuo people who live in China have polyamorous relationships without any sign of harm to them, their children or to the community at large. In fact, anthropologists have argued that this system serves to strengthen family bonds, friendships and the vitality of the community.

Sometimes I suspect that one of the reasons some people are so set on denying other people the right to marry is because they're afraid their own marriages will look dull or miserable by comparison. Want to cut down on problem marriages? Prosecute abusers and leave others alone to have the relationships they want.
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