Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Did Status of Women have it right all along?

At the risk of further type-casting myself as having a 'bizarre (and even creepy) obsession with polygamy', I would like to draw your attention to an article in today's Province by Alan Ferguson, Polygamists should have the same rights and freedoms as other people (H/T National Newswatch).

His premise appears to be that basically, the state has no business meddling in the bedrooms of its citizens as long as all other rights are respected. Actual abuses should be prosecuted separate from the polygamy issue.

He suggests that we should accept the status quo, because:

Oppal has also been advised to ask the courts to rule on the validity of the polygamy law. The risk here is that it might well be overturned, leading to profound changes affecting tax and immigration legislation.

Better to leave well enough alone. The state frequently does no better in the bedrooms of the nation than did the meddling priests of old.



But is that good enough? Should we keep a law on the books that is absolutely untenable and will never be enforced?

Why not decriminalize polygamy and thereby bring it out from under the cover of silence and secrecy into an environment where abuses against women and children will be easier to detect?


When I first heard about the Bailey report in early 2006, I was outraged. But now I'm thinking that perhaps Martha Bailey was just ahead of her time:


A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

"Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women," says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

"The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed."

The research paper is part of a controversial $150,000 polygamy project, launched a year ago and paid for by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada.

The paper by three law professors at Queen's University in Kingston argues that Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code banning polygamy serves no useful purpose and in any case is rarely prosecuted.

Instead, Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights.

Currently, there's a hodgepodge of legislation across the provinces, some of whom — Ontario, for example — give limited recognition to foreign polygamous marriages for the purposes of spousal support. Some jurisdictions provide no relief at all.

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.

"In light of the fact that we have a fairly permissive society . . . why are we singling out that particular form of behaviour for criminalization?"


Maybe I'm turning into a bleeding-heart Liberal. Yikes!


* * * *
Background: CTV, Status of Women report, Globe.

19 comments:

Brian in Calgary said...

Maybe I'm turning into a bleeding-heart Liberal. Yikes!

No, Joanne, it just means you like to think for yourself, and won't automatically plug into the "official" conservative point of view in a knee-jerk fashion. That's what I like about both you and Sandy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you're a pretty shade of purple Joanne.

Please tell us when the Liberalism ends and the conservatism begins because it's hard to tell on this issue quite honestly.

Who's sticking up for those not old enough to have a say? Or those who might end up in abusive situations with no way out?

Nicol DuMoulin said...

Still haven't gotten around to writing my post on this, but what you always have to ask is 'why'?

Queen's is my old school. It is the pre-emininent school of modern feminist theory in Canada. Martha Bailey believes that traditional marriage is a form of slavery for women and that by opening up the institution to everyone, it will eventually eliminate it altogether.

Remember, SSM never originated in the gay community, it originated in the feminist community as a way of eliminating the concept altogether. Bailey is from that train of thought.

And I can tell you with utmost confidence based on my time at Queen's, your definition and the general public's definition of 'abuse' of women and children is vastly different than Martha Bailey's and the people she represents.

Again, we must always ask why...what is their end game and what do they mean by these words as we no longer speak the same language any more. And nobody speaks a different language more than academia.

bluetech said...

Polygamy is adultery.
This circular reasoning is very humanistic, and there will be no solution from conservatism or liberalism.Take morals out of the picture and you have thousands of 'moral compasses' trying to point to the correct destination.
I thought you knew that Joanne.
Modern measuring sticks( like moral compasses) are warped.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Polygamy is adultery.

Exactly.

Who's sticking up for those not old enough to have a say? Or those who might end up in abusive situations with no way out?

And that has to be handled on a case-by-case basis, just as it is in monogamous relationships.

Jan said...

Actually, its not adultery.

In true polyandry, not the abuse kind we see in the headline, when 3 (or more) people are in a loving, committed, CLOSED, relationship there is no more adultery than in a loving committed closed relationship of 2 people. Fidelity is being faithful to your partner(s), adultery is cheating. Because one chooses to have a non-traditional relationship where all parties know of each other and usually live or interact together doesn't mean its adulterous. Adultery is when someone is having a sexual relationship (usually lying and sneaking about) with someone other than their partner. Cheating hurts. Cheating is dishonest.

If you do any research into the poly community at all, you will find that, as a group, they consider cheating to be abhorrent. Poly is about being open… and contrary to popular opinion, most poly relationships are not promiscuous, but very closed as far as allowing anyone that the other partners do not approve of within the circle.
Because one chooses to have a non-traditional relationship where all parties know of each other and usually live or interact together doesn't mean its adulterous. Adultery is when someone is having a sexual relationship (usually lieing and sneaking about) with someone other than their partner.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jan, your name wouldn't be Jancis Andrews, by any chance would it?

Anonymous said...

Abolition of legal marriage would solve all these problems.

The religious performed marriages centuries before the government of Ontario got into the act and they still do it for people so inclined, so abolition would be no problem.

Law that entangles itself with who was married to whom can be re-written from the perspective of individual rights and responsibilities.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Nicol, looking forward to your post.


Abolition of legal marriage would solve all these problems.

Anon, that may perhaps be the end goal; their 'game' as Nicol refers to it.

PGP said...

It always easier to run with the herd, to fly in the swarm or swim in the school.

In the morally equivalent society there are no norms or standards.

Are you prepared to follow this logic to it's conclusion?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Are you prepared to follow this logic to it's conclusion?

Meaning?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jan, sorry. Now that I've read your post again, I can see that there is no way you are the person I referred to.

Isn't the definition of polyandry a relationship with one female and more than one male?

I see your point about the fidelity issue. As long as all members of the group stay faithful to each other, it isn't adultery, right?

valiantmauz said...

It's only a guess, but I think Jan meant polyamory, not polyandry.

DavidA said...

Seeing as polygamy has been driven into the shadows by its banning many years ago, it may be hard to look at it as anything other than "wrong". Aside from issues of taxation and inheritence, I personally dont see it as being anyones business how people decide to cohabitate.

There are plenty of examples in nature of animals doing just this, usually involving a male and a whole herd of females. I dont know of any situations with the roles of gender reversed, so feminists please go gentle on me :p

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Valiantmauz, I think you're right.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I dont know of any situations with the roles of gender reversed, so feminists please go gentle on me

David, polyandry is much less common for sure. It is forbidden in the Quran. The reverse, of course is allowed within certain restrictions.

Anonymous said...

If they want the same rights and freedoms - then polygamy should be against the law. Bigomy is not legal so why should they have more rights and freedoms than the rest of us?

LynnH said...

Since I have been reading on the polygamy issue I just can't get the song "Farmer in the Dell" out of my head.

The farmer takes 3 wives
The 2nd wife takes a SSwife
The SSwife takes a husband
That husband takes 2 more wives
...
Really the combinations and permutations on limitless spousal additions is boggling. Then there is the issue of marital assets and child support upon 1 or more divorces. How about insurance, CPP or company pension spousal entitlements, tax policy etc. The "morality" of the issue is one thing but the implications in these other areas are complex.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

The "morality" of the issue is one thing but the implications in these other areas are complex.

Exactly. Decriminalization is one thing; legalization is another.

We couldn't afford it, I'm sure.