Monday, October 23, 2006

Does a Tolerant Society include Tolerating Polygamy?

The National Post ran a front-page story today, exposing polygamy in Canada as a Human Rights issue (Canada criticized over polygamy). So far this is not under a subscriber's firewall, and well worth the read.

It refers to Rebecca Cook's recently released report for the Justice Department, "Polygyny and Canada's Obligations under International Human Rights Law".

There are a few noteworthy items in the Post article. The first is this little nugget:

Section 293 of the Criminal Code bans "any form of polygamy" or "any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage."


I still have to wonder about Swingers' clubs then. If you and a bunch of other folks are having an orgy, that's o.k., but if you're trying to be a family, well then you can forget about it.


The other thing that caught my eye was this reference to Status of Women:

One controversial report commissioned by the Status of Women, which was published last year, called for repealing the ban on polygamy in favour of other laws to help women and children.
So this answers my question from a previous post: "What if anything was Status of Women doing about it all this time?"


Globe:
Chief author Martha Bailey says criminalizing polygamy, typically a marriage involving one man and several wives, serves no good purpose and prosecutions could do damage to the women and children in such relationships.

"Why criminalize the behaviour?" she said in an interview. "We don't criminalize adultery.

Thank you Status of Women for your enlightened help in this one.


Polygamy does not just discriminate against women. Global Television ran a documentary this past Saturday called "The Lost Boys", showing the harmful effects of polygamy on young men growing up in this environment. In a society where the older men get three wives or more, most younger men are not even allowed to date or socialize with girls their age. A few lucky ones do get wives, but they are assigned to them.

If these young men try to leave, they struggle with the effects of little education and a lack of decision-making skills that seriously impair their integration into mainstream society.


The powers that be in B.C. seem to be reluctant to press criminal charges due to freedom of religion guarantees, yet this is a Human Rights issue. How can we judge other countries when we turn a blind eye to what is going on right at home?

Ms. Cook does offer a solution (Post):

Ms. Cook's study concludes there is a difference between religious beliefs and practices.

"While Canada is not entitled under international law to restrict religious belief, it is entitled and in fact obliged in some circumstances to restrict religious practices that undermine the rights and freedoms of others," she wrote.

Indeed. Ontario saw fit to ban Sharia law. Much as I hate to admit it, this is one situation where B.C. could learn something from Dalton McGuinty.

I can't believe I just said that.

10 comments:

liberal supporter said...

"Thank you Status of Women for your enlightened help in this one."

They commissioned the report. You quoted the author of the report. What was SOW's view on the report? Because it could be different from the view of the report's author.

"If you and a bunch of other folks are having an orgy, that's o.k., but if you're trying to be a family, well then you can forget about it."

No, if they do not get married at all, then a group of people can live together. If they do any sort of ceremony that could be construed as a marriage ceremony (even if not performed by anyone licenced to do so) then it does fall under bigamy laws.

I agree with the SOW report's author that other laws should be brought to bear on places like Bountiful. Basically they are operating a cult, and abusing underage girls (and boys).

I disagree with the SOW report's author that bigmay laws need to be repealed to help with this. I am sure that existing bigamy laws are flexible enough not to jail a 15 year old who got snared by these predatory cults. But the procurers and multiwived husbands, sure.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

No, if they do not get married at all, then a group of people can live together. If they do any sort of ceremony that could be construed as a marriage ceremony (even if not performed by anyone licenced to do so) then it does fall under bigamy laws.

"..any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage."

Canadi-anna said...

If polygamy is prosecuted, it will become legal, which is why they don't prosecute. Better that the law stay on the books and be quietly violated by a small proportion of the population, than for it to be challenged and become lawful.
You can call it a human rights violation, but if the women are willing participants, they are not violated. Young boys may well be marginalized, but that sort of mistreatment can occur in any household and wouldn't stand up to a violation of human rights argument.

I don't agree with polygamy, but particularly when a country decides that the definition of marriage is maliable, it leaves itself open to varying interpretations of the word. How can a society that sanctions same-gender marriages argue that the number of participants renders a marriage immoral or illegal.
Either marriage means one thing, or it means just about anything its participants wish it to mean.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I hear you, Canadianna. I'd just like to see this thing come to a head.

It reminds me of the Caledonia situation - always there; irritating; like a wart that won't go away.

Steph said...

Polygamy has always seemed to me to be a case of conflicting rights and therefore hard to deal with. It's interesting if people are trying to make a distinction by saying that it's a matter of religious practice not beliefs and therefore might not be a case of rights. That seems like dangerous territory to get into though.

Canadi-anna, I'm curiuos as to why you say, "If polygamy is prosecuted, it will become legal, which is why they don't prosecute." Can you please explain why that would happen?

Anonymous said...

It's only a guess, but I think they refuse to prosecute beacuse they'll run smack dab into a strong freedom of religion defence.

And if the province loses, polygamy becomes legal marriage.

What I find hugely funny (in a bitter sort of way) is that opponents of SSM argue a slippery slope from SSM to polygamy, when the slope has been sitting there, greased and ready all this time, and religious freedom is the bobsleigh.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Valiantmauz - It is ironic indeed. That is perhaps why some Muslims were not speaking out against same-sex marriage - because they knew polygamy was not far away, and it was a concept that some Muslims could embrace.

[Emphasis on "some" Muslims so I don't get accused of sterotyping.]

Joanne (True Blue) said...

BTW, Muslim support for same-sex marriage here.

Anonymous said...

There is no way to prosecute anyone for having a conjugal union with more than one person at the same time. Grown adults are free to carry on in any CONSENTUAL relationships they choose. Some people cheat, some people choose to live in a different family structure than one male, one female (as is evidenced by the same sex argument). You cannot legislate an individual's living arrangement or sexual activity.

However, when there are children involved, or when there is abuse or coercion as in the Bountiful situation, there needs to be some regulatory protection for all involved.

But... blanketly saying that a sexual living arrangement between two or more consensual adults can never fly in our 'progressive modern' society. If that were the case, SSM wouldn't have stood a chance.

You can't tell me that SSM is fine, but I can be prosecuted for living under the same roof with my two lovers.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

You can't tell me that SSM is fine, but I can be prosecuted for living under the same roof with my two lovers..

I think you have an excellent point.