16 October, 2021

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Polygamy: The Argument Between Regulating & Banning

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

In August 2015, Myanmar’s President signed off on polygamy law proposed by the hardline Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, seen as targeting and discriminating against the country’s Muslim minority. Ma Ba Tha, accuses Muslims of trying to take over the country by “outbreeding” its Buddhist majority. “They set out the potential for discrimination on religious grounds ..” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch as reported by the German Deutsche Welle on 31/08/2015.

In Sri Lanka, we have heard of this same malicious propaganda of a ‘Muslim invasion’!! Not of the military type but by an increase in population. Think about the duplicity of social norms and values and the relative hypocrisy in reasoning. Indulging in multiple sexual relationships with several adult partners are not punishable but one legal polygamous marriage which will give all rights to the woman, is considered illegal. Polygamy per se is not a problem, how it is understood and perceived is the problem. The misguided and unwise Cabinet decision to ban polygamy in Sri Lanka will provide further ammunition to all the international rights bodies. No doubt the ban targets and discriminates against the Muslims.

Differences In Values

Let us look at values in Personal and Social norms to understand the character of relativeness in them. We, in Sri Lanka, do not eat dog meat but “Asocena” a Filipino dish primarily consisting of dog meat is savoured in the Philippines. Muslims do not eat pork but others relish it. In Sri Lanka spitting at another is considered a disgusting act. In Greece spitting three times on the Bride and Groom is a tradition, to protect them from any evil spirits. In Sri Lanka, polyandry, where a woman has more than one husband, was legally practiced in the kingdom of Kandy. This was not acceptable to the British. Polyandry (especially fraternal polyandry) is also common among Buddhists in Bhutan, Ladakh, and other parts of the Indian subcontinent. Polygamy is normal in several tribes in the African states. If anyone speaks against polygamy in such places they will be frowned upon. In Sri Lanka no one is introducing polygamy. It has been in existence from time immemorial. The Cabinet decision is going to deny this right practiced since ‘antiquity’, as law would call it.

Serial Monogamy

Multiple marriages do take place in the case of remarriage due to death or divorce but a single spouse at a time. This is called ‘Serial Monogamy’. According to Danish scholar Miriam K. Zeitzen, anthropologists treat serial monogamy, in which divorce and remarriage occur, as a form of polygamy as it also can establish a series of households that may continue to be tied by shared paternity and shared income (as in a polygamous marriage). Serial monogamy creates a new kind of relative, the “ex-“. The “ex-wife”, for example, can remain an active part of her “ex-husband’s” life, as they may be tied together by legally or informally mandated economic support, which can last for years, including by alimony, child support, and joint custody. (Polygamy: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Oxford.). 

Bob Simpson, the British social anthropologist, notes that it creates an “extended family” by tying together a number of households, including mobile children. He says that Britons may have ex‑wives or ex‑brothers‑in‑law, but not an ex‑child. According to him, these “unclear families” do not fit the mold of the monogamous nuclear family. (Changing Families: An Ethnographic Approach to Divorce and Separation.).

When we consider a polygamous marriage the wife, children, in-laws and relations are involved. While in a ‘serial monogamous’ marriage too all of these actors are present with the exception of a co-existing second wife. The rest of the equation remains the same. 

Adultery Vs Polygamy

Why not do the right thing?  Instead of banning a legal polygamous marriage why not ban adultery? How many illegitimate children would have been born by such unions? As such relationships are secretive, both the woman and the child cannot claim any rights. In fact, most people reading this will know at least one person who ‘plays around’ outside his/her home. 

Like in Sri Lanka, polygamy was an accepted practice in Thailand for centuries. It was banned in 1935 – after the 1932 Siamese Revolution. Today, Thailand leads the world list of countries that are most often cited as having illicit affairs. It is in the top spot at 56% of the population admitting for extra marital sex. It has a population of approximately 70 million. Do your math to figure out how many have extramarital sex. Thais were found to be the most unfaithful nationality in a 2012 survey of 29,000 people in 36 countries conducted by condom manufacturer Durex.

Adultery is not a crime in Sri Lanka. Under Section 19 (2) of the General Marriage Registration Ordinance, adultery subsequent to marriage can be a ground for divorce. However, it is a difficult allegation to prove.  No sane person will commit adultery publicly. It is done surreptitiously. Moreover, adultery can be committed with several partners. Therefore, the spouse will be left with no choice but to live the adulterous spouse because it cannot be proved. Spousal disloyalty can become deadly as they may be infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Especially, the HIV virus acquired through heterosexual extramarital affairs. The tragedy includes children, many of whom will be born with the virus.

In this sense, which is more dangerous to society adultery or polygamy? Which of these two is more beneficial for social and family life? In fact, more than banning polygamous marriages which are very few, we must focus on saving the first marriage from falling apart due to extra marital relationships, which is in greater proportion. Where should the emphasis lie? Which is the priority?

Unenforceability

Banning polygamy is negative and reactionary thinking. It must be regulated through control and restrictive measures. To do this we have to think positively and creatively. Not merely following what other jurisdictions have done. Sri Lankan situation is unique and a local solution has to be developed. As proven above, restricting polygamy can lead to adulterous lifestyles and those supporting the ban will be responsible for creating such an immoral social environment. In Buddhist Cambodia, where polygamy is prohibited, partners/families outside of the legal marriage and the desertion of wives and children have become common social illnesses in that country. (Henry Kamm, Cambodia: Report from a Stricken Land 1998, Arcade Books).

There will be an enforcement problem as has been reported in several jurisdictions. In Turkey, since the judicial system legally prohibits polygamy, some people prefer imam nikahi (an unofficial, religious marriage ceremony) for the second wife and sometimes hide this marriage from their first wives and society. Thereby forcing people to have secret martial relationships. In Brazil where polygamy is illegal, a practice called “polylove” is common. “Stable sexual relationships in which more than two people are involved, or “polylove” as its participants call it, is gradually gaining ground … where more and more unions of this kind are in evidence.” (Polygamy is Brazil’s latest contribution to sexual revolution, EFE Rio de Janeiro 11 Apr 2016). In West Africa six countries have civil codes that formally prohibit polygamy (Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria) but legal restrictions are rarely enforced. (http://www.west-africa-brief.org/content /en/polygamy).

Although, polygamous marriages may be prohibited by civil law, they are widespread in practice. It is difficult to enforce laws prohibiting polygamy. This is clearly evidenced by empirical studies. 

Conclusion

An issue has to be addressed objectively. Objectivity demands that one puts aside preconceived notions, prejudices, and social perceptions. It is only then can the advantages and disadvantages of a subject be evaluated scientifically, rationally and logically. Polygamy is no exception to this process. Banning Polygamy is an absolutely meaningless exercise. Instead of banning, it has to be regulated. The previous reports on reforms have articulated on this. As citizens, we expect the Cabinet of Ministers to act maturely; Not hastily take rash decisions.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    4

    “Banning Polygamy is an absolutely meaningless exercise. Instead of banning, it has to be regulated.”
    You can say exactly the same thing about Prostitution! The reasoning is not very different. In fact, it must be done soon, as the only way to rescue the National Economy is to promote Sex Tourism!

    • 7
      3

      Yes, that great Buddhist country Thailand encourages sex tourism. Thailand started its rise in the 60’s providing services to US troops on vacation from Vietnam.
      But of course, even though some of us have taken to raping 15 year olds, it can’t be legalized. Bad for our Buddhist image, no?

    • 8
      2

      Oldest profession would remain anywhere, regardless of them being rich or poor.
      .
      CM, I have no idea if you are aware it or not – HIKKADUWA/NEGOMBO are known to EUropeans as gay paradise in asia. To Thai they are used to go for hetero sex while SL was a long known place for gay tourists.
      .
      And even if our SB fundementalists (though I born buddhist as everyone down there would be, but I am against buddhagama, but I respect only true teachings of buddha) make every effort keep them above, there are statistics, not only Thai and Myanmar, but our monks too are on the list as child molesters. Honourable MP Ranjan Ramanayake questioned this louder than anyone else, however, the great man is today in jail while those continue the business are in ruling coalition.
      With this being the reality about our SINHALAYAS; they have been overestimating about their race on and on. Truth is bitter.

    • 0
      0

      Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group (MPLRAG)

      We welcome the news that the Advisory Committee on Muslim Law Reforms has submitted its report on reform of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) to the Minister of Justice, MUM Ali Sabry on June 21st 2021. Transparency and a timeline of the reforms are currently of the utmost importance

      We endorse the decisions by the Cabinet of Ministers on key substantive issues relating to the MMDA: 1) raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years without exceptions 2) requiring the consent and signature of the bride to formalise a marriage 3) allowing women Quazis and 4) abolishing polygamy.

      https://www.mmdasrilanka.org/statement-progressive-decisions-by-cabinet-of-ministers-on-substantive-mmda-reform-are-welcome/

  • 6
    5

    The Sinhalese who have not lived among the Muslims entertain the wrong notion that relatively higher Muslim population growth rate is due to polygamy among them. Cases of polygamy is rare among the Sri Lankan Muslims though it is legally permitted to them. The real reason for the larger families is girls are married off very young coupled with the conspiratorial mutual understanding to increase their numbers.

    Soma

    • 6
      2

      Soma,
      .
      Polygamy is common among so called SB adherents in the country today with almost every 2nd marriage is a divorce as of today. Granpas abuse their grandchildren while fathers abuse their daughters. An analysis revealed all these few months ago, you could have the data for your check on the web. Unlike few decades ago, no dignity of life is the case for today s srilankens.. I dont think it is because of long held war situation. Total ignorance and media are to be blamed for the entire mess.

    • 6
      3

      soman

      “The real reason for the larger families is girls are married off very young coupled with the conspiratorial mutual understanding to increase their numbers”

      Please let us have annual population growth rate of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, …. and Sinhala/Buddhists for the past 100 years.

      If you can’t will you apologise to Muslim Women?

      • 3
        1

        NV
        Muslims at present are 10% . When was the Muslim population 5%.?

        Soma

    • 2
      2

      Soma,
      “The Sinhalese who have not lived among the Muslims entertain the wrong notion that relatively higher Muslim population growth rate is due to polygamy among them.”
      Your experience in Indonesia would tell you that their population isn’t exploding.

  • 3
    2

    THE increase in number is understanding of The God of monotheism is the one real god that is believed to exist or, in any case, that is acknowledged as such. valid reason to assume, for example, parting of the Red Sea power of god.

  • 2
    2

    If polygamy is all right with proper monitoring, what about polyandry?
    It exists in Nepal among certain communities.
    The Mahabharata sees no offence in it.
    Is not what is sauce for the goose sauce for the gander a swell?

    • 2
      1

      Is not what is sauce for the goose sauce for the gander as well?

    • 3
      2

      SJ

      Polyandry in Ceylon
      With Special Reference to the Laggala Region
      By Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah

  • 3
    1

    Polygamy is not the cause of population increase. A woman can bear only one child every 10 months. Whether she has intercourse with one or several partners is beside the point – it’s a max one per 10 months. Whether a man has one wife or 10 men have 10 wives the maximum possible output very 10 months is the same. What’s the difference from a population point of view if the 10 women breed with 10 different man?

    The only way is sterilization of women. Castrating men won’t help. As Prof Paul wisely elucidated to me 40 years ago “The Municipality is wasting its money trying to control the stray dog population by castrating male-dogs. If you miss one bugger he will impregnate every bitch in town. The only way is to spade as many bitches as you can catch. Then it does not matter what you do about male-dogs”. Prof was a brilliant numbers man!

  • 3
    2

    Polygamy is not a rule or strict religious duty. Enforcing Strict laws against a provision and not a compulsory religious duty han no logical reason.

    They will try to make a million different laws to protect their immorality
    gay marriage, living together, massage spas, prostitution and nudity etc..,
    has not taken any measures against immoral act to save the young generation.

    The first thing to note on this issue is that polygamy is not ordered as a general rule for all Muslims to follow. Instead, it is a provision – something allowed – for special circumstances. Polygamy is allowed, though not mandatory, as a remedial measure for certain situations that may arise from time to time.

    Are we digging our own graves!!!

    Forced cremation a successful short term campaign starded causing immense damage to environment still not realised by the innocents who are well motivated against muslims.

    Merchants face inconvenience due to the smoke produced from the crematorium near Peliyagoda Manning Market.

    https://www.facebook.com/129843276524/posts/10157590007186525/

  • 3
    0

    Key to this One country – One law should align all these traditional and customs laws to be under the general country law. If UNICEF and SL agrees Child is defined as age below 16 years – then no custom/ traditional law should be going against that !! MMDA has not evolved from 100 years just like its Islam religion. Polygamy was used in 1400’s when men went to war and was killed, with more women than men (Like 4 women to 1 man) – world has moved on and Islam and MMDA needs to move on !!! If you can’t sign to your own marriage, if Muslim women can’t opt to get married under SL law its unfair and MMDA allows under advantage for Muslim men..!! how many Muslim men will stand up for MMDA changes #lethersign?

  • 3
    1

    Should introduce a policy to provide free education and free health services only to two children.

  • 4
    7

    Twenty years ago Muslims were only 2% of the population. Now they are 10%. By 2040, they want to be at 30% and by 2060 they want to be at 70%.

    • 3
      5

      How Islam progressively takes over countries –
      In Dr. Peter Hammond’s book, “Slavery, Terrorism and Islam,

      Their takeover of a country, what Dr. Hammond refers to as “Islamization,” begins when the population of Muslims reaches a critical mass, and they being to agitate for various privileges.

      • Below 2% – Muslims will be seen primarily as a peace-loving minority
      • 2% – 5% – Muslims begin to recruit from ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, within prisons and street gang.
      • 5% above – Muslims exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population,” “For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food” and increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature such food on their shelves — along with threats for failure to comply.
      • 10% above – Muslims tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats.
      • 20% above – After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues,”
      • 60% and above – persecution of non-believing “infidels” rises significantly, including sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia law as a weapon, and Jizya, a tax placed on infidels.

      • 2
        2

        Sam,
        Are you closely related to that nut Jay Chambers?

      • 1
        2

        SAM,

        I think Dr Hammond needs to add one more level.

        70% and above it’s game over for the infidels. It’s conversion at gun point thereon.

    • 1
      0

      RSP

      Here are some FACTS as against your Wild IMAGINATION.

      According to the Dept. of Census & Statistics, here are the population figures of Sinhalese & Muslims for 100 years i.e 1911 and 2011 (in ‘000s)

      % of total % of total
      Sinhalese 2,715.5 66.1 15,215.5 74.9

      Muslims 279.6 6.8 1,936.7 9.5

      Wonder from where you got your figure of Muslims being ONLY 2% of the Population 20 years ago when they were almost 3 1/2 times more than that over 110 years ago!

      100 years later, in 2011, Sinhalese have increased from 66.1% to 74.9% where as Muslims are yet to cross 10%. At the same time, in just numbers, in 2011, Muslims are almost 900,000 less than the what the Sinhalese were 100 years earlier in 1911.

      if you are interested in Learning and Educating yourself, here is an article that appeared in FT captioned

      “Facts and fallacies of Muslim population in Sri Lanka”

      https://www.ft.lk/Opinion-and-Issues/Facts-and-fallacies-of-Muslim-population-in-Sri-Lanka/14-692886

    • 1
      0

      RSP

      110 years ago, in 1911, the Muslims were 6.8% according to the Dept. of Census & Statistics. So, if as you claim, 20 years ago Muslims were 2%, their population dropped by 4.8% in 90 years!

      That means, on this basis, there will be hardly any Muslims left in SL in 2060. So, there is absolutely No NEED for you to worry your little mind about Muslims EVER coming any where close to the Sinhalese in numbers, leave alone overtaking the Sinhalese in population.

  • 2
    1

    Banning prostitution, child molestation, homosexuality and rape will put our honourable monks at a terrible disadvantage. If you also ban them from visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Japan and the redlight cities of India, Europe and elsewhere, they will end up castrating themselves. Then, who will preach the dhamma?
    Just think! How many times our honourable monks had to be rescued from bottlenecks into which their lingams get stuck? Ban polygamy if you want but heck no banning of pedophilia, rape, prostitution, homosexuality and so on. These are our monks’ staple diets!

  • 1
    1

    By 2040, they want to be at 30% and by 2060 they want to be at 70%

    70% due to The understanding of god , existence of only one god that created the world, iomnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

    • 3
      2

      If that was the case you wouldn’t be braying that over here. Instead you would go to Panagoda and loudly bray those same words. And most likely you would soon get a chance to see him too.

  • 1
    2

    Mass L. Usuf , any other Muslim practises you would like the Government to accommodate? Stoning homosexuals perhaps? Beheading in public? Amputation? It seems the majority must accommodate every whim and fancy of the minorities otherwise they are called racist. This is the reason they voted for Gota and the SLPP despite all their corruption and crimes.

  • 0
    0

    WHAT IS HAPPENING IN PANAGODA IF YOU GO THERE NOT WE WILL SEE HIM

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