Polygamy causes suffering among women, study finds

Dear Readers,

I am publishing this because I think it is worthy of note.  I hope everyone is having a safe and lovely summer.  There is no word from Chief Justice Bauman on his decision re the constitutionality of Canada’s law banning polygamy.  As soon as there is word, I’ll let you know.

Nancy Mereska, President, Stop Polygamy in Canada


May 24, 2011

Arab women in Israel who are in polygamous marriages live in a state of poverty, neglect and anxiety. Polygamy disrupts women’s and children’s lives and condemns them to a life of poverty, loneliness and depression.

These are the conclusions of a qualitative study conducted recently among Bedouin women in the Negev by SHATIL and Ma’an, the Forum for Arab Women’s Organizations in the Negev.

The study’s purpose was to examine the experiences of women living in polygamous marriages and to look at how polygamy affects their lives. In in-depth interviews with nine women, the researchers found that:

• the women fear divorce.

• they experience a serious deterioration in their economic situation once their husband marries an additional wife.

• the “left behind wife” loses her social benefits as the state does not recognize more than one wife.

• they suffer physical and emotional abuse after the additional marriage.

• there is a cycle of lack of education.

• all express anti-polygamy stands.

One of those surveyed tried to commit suicide after being beaten and humiliated by her husband. She said: “Everything I do is for my children. I cannot divorce and remarry because then I would lose my (eight) children.” (In Bedouin society, the children of divorce stay with the father and the mother may be forbidden from seeing them.)

R. 26, a mother of six who married at 14 and was forced by her husband’s family to leave school, said: “My husband’s third wife is now building a new home with my husband. I live in their basement. When I first came there, there was no electricity, water, windows or bathrooms. Today there are windows, but still no door.”

Z, whose father has three wives, sees the lack of justice that may arise from polygamy.

“My father has a son from his third wife and a daughter from my mother. Both are eight and are in the same class. My father pays for the class trips of his son but not of his daughter…Before we went to court, he would take our government child allowance…”

P, aged 38, echoed other women in polygamous marriages when she said: “I’m against polygamy, because it’s hard on the (first) wife and the children. Always, as a result of polygamy, one of the wives is neglected. This is hard on the mother and on the children because they need the father, they need their father’s voice, they need their fathers’ talk…sometimes they get out of control because of this.”

The findings strengthen academic studies of polygamy and enrich it with personal complexity.

The study was conducted by Hind Elsana, the lobbyist for SHATIL’s Bedouin Women’s Rights and Leadership Project, funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) as well as a Ma’an attorney and a SHATIL Everett Social Justice Fellow, Tamar Seter. The study’s conclusions were presented Tuesday at a conference at Ben Gurion University as well as at Ma’an’s 10th anniversary conference.

The study followed an intensive anti-polygamy media campaign by a coalition of Israeli Arab women’s organizations.

Ma’an has launched a project to raise awareness in the Bedouin community about the problems caused by polygamous marriages. A position paper prepared by Elsana will soon be presented to the Knesset.

  1. ‘Obedient Wife Club’ set up to curb divorce

    By Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok
    The Telegraph (U.K.)
    11:42AM BST 03 Jun 2011

    A group of Malaysian Muslim women is to launch a new platform called The Obedient Wife Club that aims to curb social ills like divorce, domestic violence and prostitution.

    One of the club’s founders Maznah Taufik said much marital discord was the result of disobedient wives failing to bring joy to their husbands.

    Wives who sign up will be given instruction in how to “obey, serve and entertain” their husbands to promote marital harmony and cut the risk their spouses will stray or misbehave.

    The club’s inaugural meeting on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur will get the proceedings rolling with speeches and a show to illustrate how women can keep their husband’s happy and contented.

    One of the club’s founders Maznah Taufik – who also set up the Polygamy Club two years ago – said much marital discord was the result of disobedient wives failing to bring joy to their husbands.

    “Domestic abuse happens because wives don’t obey their husband’s orders,” said Mrs Maznah. “A man must be responsible for his wife’s wellbeing, but she must listen to her husband.” She also said the group would stress that wives had to provide husbands with a fulfilling sex life to prevent them straying to prostitutes.

    “To entertain their husbands is compulsory,” she said. “If she doesn’t do this the husband will look for another woman … and the house will break down.

    “Wives should welcome them with sexy clothes and alluring smiles when in the privacy of their own homes. Some wives just want to get married for leisure, but they don’t know the responsibility.” In Malaysia 60 per cent of the population are followers of Islam, with the large ethnic Indian and Chinese communities devotees of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu traditions. But the divorce rate is highest among Malay Muslims, with the number of splits doubling between 2002 and 2009.

    Mother-of-five Mrs Maznah, 48, established the Polygamy Club in 2009 to promote polygamy, and now claims to have 1,000 members, both men and women.

    As the second wife in a household of 16 children, she said that her husband was a happy man. To foster harmony in the household she always treated her husband’s first wife like an elder sister.

    But a study last year by a Muslim activist group found that men in polygamous relationships invariably found it difficult to meet all the needs of their wives and children, which resulted in unhappy families which struggled to make ends meet.

    • I have just the book for Mrs. Maznah Taufik. She should find the book terrific for her new club–The Obedient Wife Club. The book is Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. With chapter titles like “Accept Him”, “Admire Him”, “Make Him Number One”, Taufik should be absolutely thrilled with the book. It was first published in 1965 in the U.S. I don’t know if Andelin is a Mormon but the Mormon leadership went goo-goo, ga-ga, over the book. It became their counter to the aggressive women’s movement that started in the sixties. Every Mormon woman had to have a copy. It is all about women giving themselves over totally to the needs and desires of their husbands. The book is obviously still going strong because there are over 5 million copies in print. I found the book so disgusting, I burned it. So now a Muslim woman starts an Obedient Wife Club FIFTY years later? Sorry, Mrs. Maznah Taufik, you are a half-century too late. Your ideas re the total subservience of women to men need to be flushed down the nearest toilet, but I guess that won’t happen for at least another FIFTY years given how far behind you are.

      Nancy Mereska, President
      Stop Polygamy in Canada

  2. There are tons of books defending polygamy and adovcate female obedience. If we burned them all, the bonfire would be huge…but nice

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