16 July 2008

How many is too many?

I'm actually not opposed to the idea of polygamy. I'll be honest, Oprah helped me come to that decision. I actually don't think that polygamy is inherently sexist. I think that, traditionally, it has been unfair to women where they haven't been allowed to take multiple husbands, and that the civil structure wasn't there to protect women who either didn't want to be a part in the first place, who suffered as part of a polygamous marriage, or who wanted out.

When one thinks of polygamy, the two top candidates are probably Mormons and Muslims. The latter are making news in Italy because of polygamy. As a traditionally Catholic country, Italy has had a ban on polygamy for quite a while, but according to this article from the LA Times, immigrants are slipping through the cracks:

Sbai, the politician, remembers polygamy from her childhood in Morocco. There, at least officially, the husband could marry no more women than he could adequately and justly care for. Here in Italy, she says, polygamy is often distorted. The immigrant experience is turned on its head: regression and isolation instead of integration.

According to the article, the law currently doesn't offer protection for women who were deceived about other wives, and custody problems are cropping up. Technically, it's not just a problem of compliance with current polygamy laws; it's about offering support to all immigrants -- men and women -- so that they understand their rights and responsibilities in their new country. I don't want to get into an argument about cultural integration or assimilation. If someone chooses to live in a new country, they have to be aware how that country operates. Hopefully there are ways for someone to preserve important elements of their culture, but ultimately, things will be different and I believe that systems should be in place to help immigrants adapt so that they understand the consequences and privileges of their new home.

I don't have the final solution, but it seems like an easy concept to me.

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