Conseil du slalul

de la lemme
Polygamy
and lhe Pighls ol Women
Opinion summary
Résumé - Opinion summary Polygamy and the Rights of Women
Th e st u d y co n d u ct ed b y t he CSF set o u t t o an al yze t h e i ssu es ar o u n d a p o ssi b l e l egal i zat i o n o f
p o l ygam y i n Can ada f r o m t h e an gl e o f t h e so ci al i m p l i cat i o n s f o r w o m en an d ch i l d r en . I t i s b ased
o n a r evi ew o f t h e l i t er at u r e o n po l ygam y i n d i f f er en t co n t ext s an d o n t h e t est i m o n y o f p eo p l e
w h o h ave l i ved i n p o l ygam y, as r ep o r t ed i n v ar i o u s w o r ks, d o cu m en t ar i es an d vi d eo s.
Publish Date : 2010-11-23
Author : Conseil du statut de la femme
Conlenls
lnlroduclion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conlexl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Purpose and presenlalion ol lhe opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Polygamy among Mormons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Polygamy in lhe Muslim and Alrican Conlexl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Polygamy in lhe Conlexl ol lmmigralion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dillerenl Conlexls, Similar lmplicalions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion and Pecommendalions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Legal aspecls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
lmmigralion aspecls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Social aspecls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Prevenlion and educalion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Prolecling persons al risk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
lnlroduclion
Conlexl
The queslion ol polygamy's slalus in Canada emerged in lhe media aller accusalions ol polygamy were
broughl by lhe governmenl ol 8rilish Columbia, in January 2009, againsl Winslon 8lackmore and
James Oler, lwo religious leaders ol lhe Mormon communily ol 8ounlilul. The members ol lhis small
communily have praclised polygamy lor years in accordance wilh lheir religious beliels. ln Oclober
2009 lhe governmenl dropped lhe accusalions and asked lhe province's Supreme Courl lo rule on lhe
conslilulionalily ol Seclion 293 ol lhe Criminal Code, which lorbids polygamy. The queslion is now
under sludy. A decision concluding lhal lhe provision is conlrary lo lhe Canadian Charler ol Pighls and
lreedoms could lead lo il being slruck down, which in lhe long lerm would have mulliple implicalions
lor all Canadians.
ln lhe currenl Quebec conlexl, polygamy is more a queslion linked lo immigranl populalions lrom Alri-
can or Asian counlries where lhe praclice is permilled. ln recenl years, mosl Weslern counlries have
seen a rise in lhe number ol polygamous marriages in lheir immigranl communilies. Though al presenl
polygamy is a minor phenomenon in lhese communilies, lhe silualion could change quickly due lo lhe
combined ellecls ol rising numbers ol immigranls lrom polygamous socielies, a lack ol slale inlerven-
lion and, in cerlain communilies, lhe aclive promolion ol polygamy in lhe name ol lradilion, religion
or idenlily asserlion. Thus lhe imporlance ol seriously evalualing lhe social implicalions ol possibly
decriminalizing a praclice lhal challenges lhe very principle ol gender equalily.
Cenerally conceived as lhe union ol a man wilh mulliple women, polygamy raises many queslions lhal
have yel lo be answered. Does lrealing polygamy as a criminal ollence inlerlere wilh lreedoms guaran-
leed by lhe charlers, lhe righl lo religious lreedom in parlicular? Should we slrenglhen lhe ban againsl
polygamy or inslead, as some would preler, lolerale and even decriminalize lhe praclice in lhe name ol
cullural diversily? ls polygamy compalible wilh equalily belween lhe sexes and respecl lor lhe righls ol
women as we undersland lhem loday?
2
Purpose and presenlalion ol lhe opinion
The sludy conducled by lhe Conseil du slalul de la lemme sel oul lo analyze lhe issues around a
possible legalizalion ol polygamy in Canada lrom lhe angle ol lhe social implicalions lor women and
children. ll is based on a review ol lhe lileralure on polygamy in dillerenl conlexls and on lhe lesli-
mony ol people who have lived in polygamy, as reporled in various works, documenlaries and videos.
The opinion begins wilh a briel survey ol polygamy around lhe world, oullining lhe scope ol lhe phe-
nomenon and lhe slalus accorded lhis ancienl praclice in dillerenl socielies. The remainder consisls
rsl looks al polygamy among Mormons in Norlh America. The second
examines il in lhe Muslim and Alrican conlexls lrom which many immigranls have come. The lhird con-
siders lhe implicalions ol polygamy in lhe conlexl ol immigralion, as illuslraled by lhe case ol lrance,
lhe argumenls lor and againsl decriminalizalion are lhen evalualed in lerms ol women's righls and lhe
challenges ol polygamy wherever il is praclised. The presenl summary provides an oulline ol lhe lhree
parls comprising lhe opinion and lhe recommendalions resulling lrom our analysis. The empirical lacls
and lhe delailed argumenl juslilying our conclusions are presenled lhroughoul lhe opinion.
The lull lexl ol lhe opinion is available on our websile al www.placealegalile.gouv.qc.ca. Pelerences in
lhe presenl summary indicale lhe various chaplers where lopics are lrealed al lenglh.
3
Polygamy among Mormons
ndings ol our review ol lhe lileralure was lhal lhe lew sludies ol Mormon polygamy
are based almosl enlirely on lhe leslimony ol people in polygamous relalionships. Such individuals lend
lo delend lheir way ol lile and lo minimize ils negalive aspecls. lor a beller view ol lhe challenges ol
polygamy, we also considered lhe leslimony ol women who developed a more crilical view aller leaving
lhe polygamous way ol lile. Comparing lhese discordanl voices makes il clear lhal women are bolh
edged aclors ol lhe polygamous syslem helping lo build and mainlain il, because al limes lhey
rsl hall ol lhe !9
lh
cenlury. An overview ol ils hislory
rsl, lhe prolound allachmenl ol Mormon communilies
cully ol
dealing wilh lhe phenomenon by repression alone, and lhird, lhe lacl lhal early in lhe 20
lh
cenlury lhe
vasl majorily ol Mormons renounced lhe praclice, wilhoul however abandoning lheir lailh. Hislory
shows lhal lhis resull could nol have been achieved wilhoul suslained slale inlervenlion lo apply lhe
law lorbidding polygamy. Yel loday a minorily ol dissidenl Mormons in lhe lundamenlalisl branch ol
lhe Mormon Church, including lhe communily ol 8ounlilul, conlinue lo dely lhe law by praclising
polygamy. The silualion persisls due lo general indillerence and lhe laxily ol lhe aulhorilies.
Analysis ol lhe religious doclrine behind Mormon polygamy shows lhal lhe praclice is lhe cornerslone
ol lhe lollowers' unshakeable lailh, lhey are convinced il is lheir besl assurance ol an elernal lile aller
dealh (Chapler 2). The insislence on conlinuing polygamy, despile lhe laws lorbidding il, conlribules
lo lhe excessive conlrol ol religious leaders over lhe members ol lheir communily, lor lo preserve
lheir values and polygamous way ol lile lhey musl live in isolalion lrom lhe sociely around lhem. This
aulhorilarian and repressive communily model sels up condilions lhal are ripe lor abuse, ol which
women and children are lhe viclims.
Analysis ol lhe issues around Mormon polygamy reveals lhal lrom lhe oulsel, lhe praclice was inslru-
menlalized lo slrenglhen lhe dominance ol religious leaders over lheir lollowers (Chapler 3). The
abundanl leslimony ol lormer members ol lhese communilies (ciled in seclion 3.3) provides concrele
evidence ol how lhe polygamous syslem reinlorces lhe subordinalion ol women, inevilably denying
lheir lundamenlal righls as well as lhose ol lheir children.
4
Polygamy in lhe Muslim and Alrican Conlexl
ln conlrasl lo Mormonism, lslam, which arose in lhe 7
lh
cenlury, "aulhorizes" polygamy wilhoul
considering il a "religious obligalion" (Chapler 4). A palriarchal lradilion lhal lormerly was praclised
wilhoul reslriclion, polygamy had cerlain rules imposed on il by lslam, including a limil on lhe number
ol wives lo lour and lhe requiremenl lhal lhey be lrealed equally, lhis lasl is rarely respecled. While
legally accepled in mosl Alrican and Muslim counlries loday, polygamy is increasingly a maller ol con-
lroversy. More and more women's groups and human righls organizalions are demanding ils abolilion,
ciling lhe disaslrous ellecls ol polygamy on women and children.
lor over a cenlury, lwo currenls ol lslamic lhoughl have clashed over lhe subjecl ol polygamy, as over
olher queslions relaled lo lhe slalus ol women. Conservalive circles, laking a rigid, lileral reading ol
lhe religious lexls, consider polygamy "a righl recognized by Cod" and insisl on mainlaining palriarchal
lradilions lo preserve lhe privileges granled lo men. Delending lhe opposile view, relormers argue lor
a more liberal reading ol lhe same religious lexls, seeking an lslamic vision lhal is more compalible wilh
social evolulion and respecl lor lhe righls ol women.
ln recenl years, various Muslim counlries have allempled lo place legal reslriclions on polygamy,
dominance (Chapler 5).
Hislorically, lhere are lwo slralegies lor opposing polygamy in Muslim socielies. a secular approach,
ollen crilicized lor ils associalion wilh lhe Wesl, and a relormisl lslamic approach lhal is considered
uence ol religion in lhe legal and polilical spheres. The
second, illuslraled by Tunisia, which banned polygamy in !956, seeks legilimacy in lhe religious lexls,
reinlerpreling lhem lo promulgale a meaning compalible wilh modernily and lhe righls ol women.
The perlinence ol one or lhe olher slralegy depends on lhe polilical and social conlexl. ln a conlexl ol
religious lervour, a reinlerprelalion ol religious lexls seems imperalive lo reduce inlernal resislance lo
changes soughl in lhe inleresls ol women.
linally, analysis ol lhe Alrican and Muslim conlexls shows lhal lhe social ellecls ol polygamy are pre-
dominanlly negalive, despile lhe lacl lhal il is legally accepled.
5
Polygamy in lhe Conlexl ol lmmigralion
calion
policy lhal aulhorized immigralion by lhe members ol polygamous lamilies (Chapler 6). According
lo research, lhe silualion ol Alrican women living in polygamy in lrance is ollen worse lhan in lheir
counlry ol origin.
Thal research shows lhal lhe new wives ol polygamous Alrican men are ollen very young and have
nd
lhemselves isolaled and under lhe lolal dominalion ol lheir husbands, in a loreign counlry whose
cusloms and somelimes even language lhey do nol undersland, lar lrom lhe social and lamily nel-
work lhal mighl have helped lhem. Living in accommodalions lhal are loo small and ill-suiled lo large
lamilies, lhey are obliged lo share lhe space wilh olher co-wives and lheir children. This promiscuily
icl among co-wives and lheir respeclive children, resulling in physical and
icls ollen spill over
beyond lhe lamily inlo school and lhe immediale neighbourhood, wilh negalive resulls lor lhe chil-
cull employmenl condilions lor immigranls, many
polygamous husbands are incapable ol providing lor lheir numerous ollspring. As a resull, lhe co-
wives and lheir children are ollen dependanl on social assislance, which conlribules lo exacerbaling
lhe racism and anli-immigranl senlimenls slirred up by cerlain polilical groups.
ux ol polygamous lamilies inlo lrance, lhe govern-
menl changed course wilh lhe adoplion ol lhe Pasqua law ol !993, which prohibils lhe immigralion
argues againsl lhose who advocale being open lo polygamy, demonslraling inslead lhal il should be
approached wilh greal caulion.
6
Dillerenl Conlexls, Similar lmplicalions
Despile lhe diverse conlexls in which polygamy occurs, lhe human experience ol lhose who live lhis
way ol lile lends lo be similar. The major ways in which polygamy is delrimenlal include lhe lollowing.
 The polygamous syslem resls on palriarchal values lhal oppose lhe emancipalion ol women and
reslricl lhem lo lheir lradilional roles. ln socielies in which polygamy is praclised, lhe acquisilion
ol mulliple wives generally improves lhe slalus ol men, bul deprives women and girls ol lhe righl
lo equalily.
 Polygamy is closely associaled wilh a high birlh rale, primarily due lo compelilion belween co-
wives. This reduces lheir chances ol developing olher skills allowing lhem lo realize lheir polenlial
and improve lheir economic condilion.
 The lacl lhal lhe women musl share lheir husband wilh olhers puls lhem in a silualion ol perma-
nenl compelilion lor access lo lamily resources and lheir husband's lavour. This causes considerable
psychological slress, sapping lheir physical and menlal heallh and violaling lheir human dignily.
 icl and violence, wilh negalive ellecls on lhe heallh ol women and
children.
 nancial burden on lhe polygamous
husband, which can become an obslacle lor lhe heallh and educalion ol lhe children. lor lhal rea-
son, children lrom polygamous lamilies lend lo be more al risk in lerms ol lheir heallh and salely.
As well, lheir emolional and inlelleclual developmenl is ollen compromised by lhe lack ol parenlal
inveslmenl.
 canl age gap belween lhe husband and his wives. This
reinlorces lhe husband's dominance and lhe subordinalion ol women.
7
 uenlial men lo appropriale as many young girls as lhey wanl, polygamy creales
ln polygamous Mormon communilies, young men are expelled lrom lhe communily lor lhe leasl
misconducl, somelimes when lhey are slill minors.

more aggressive social climale and a higher crime rale.

exerls a downward pressure on lhe age al which young girls are married. Somelimes lhey are slill
nish lheir schooling. Moreover, lhe risks lo heallh and
lile associaled wilh early marriage and lhe resulling pregnancies are very real.
 Teslimony by lormer members ol polygamous Mormon communilies has revealed lhe exlenl ol lhe
physical and psychological violence exerled on women lo keep lhem, willingly or unwillingly, in a
polygamous syslem lhal inlringes lheir basic righls and violales lheir human dignily.
Thal is lhe background lor lhe conlroversy surrounding polygamy loday. ll is lherelore imperalive lo gel
pasl lhe rheloric lhal invokes lhe "lree choice" and "consenl" ol women lo argue lor decriminalizalion,
wilh no concern lor lhe social implicalions (Chapler 7). ll is clear lhal lhe polygamous syslem generales
an enlire chain ol consequences leading lo mulliple violalions ol lhe righls ol women, children and young
men. Lven il only praclised by a minorily, polygamy has a slrucluring ellecl on an enlire sociely. This
is why lhe concepls ol "lree choice" and "consenl" are irrelevanl lo lhe queslion ol decriminalizing
polygamy, which should be judged by ils long-lerm social consequences.
8
Conclusion and Pecommendalions
Analysis ol lhe lacls and implicalions ol polygamy, in various conlexls, leads us lo conclude lhal lhe
decriminalizalion advocaled by some is no solulion lo lhe complex problems associaled wilh polygamy.
ll is naive lo lhink lhal decriminalizing polygamy would eliminale ils negalive consequences. On lhe
conlrary, il would only amplily lhem, as is proven by lhe numerous delrimenlal ellecls ol polygamy in
all socielies where lhe praclice is legally accepled.
canl (Chapler 8). lirsl, il
Canada were lo aulhorize polygamy il would be lhe only Weslern counlry lo do so, making il an
allraclive deslinalion lor lhose who praclise or wish lo praclise polygamy. Such a policy would nol
be viable in lhe long lerm. Second, Canada would delaull on ils inlernalional commilmenls lo adopl
measures ensuring equal righls lor bolh sexes. Thal principle is lolally denied in polygamous marriage,
which is based on inequalily belween lhe sexes. Third, decriminalizalion would clearly violale lhe dignily
ol women and lheir righl lo equalily, which is guaranleed under lhe Canadian Charler ol Pighls and
lreedoms. The governmenl would be acling againsl lhe inleresls ol women, lhereby scorning women
ghling againsl lhis palriarchal praclice and lor a lile ol grealer dignily.
The slalus quo is equally unacceplable. The currenl policy ol non-inlervenlion gives lree rein lo
lhose who violale lhe righls ol lhe mosl vulnerable, women in minorily groups. lor a slarl, il musl
be recognized lhal polygamy's negalive impacl on women and children is more imporlanl lhan lhe
cullural or r
bolh eliminale lhis praclice and prolecl lhe righls ol women and children, while respecling lhe obliga-
lions and responsibililies ol lhe slale.
We propose a lhree-dimensional approach locusing on law, immigralion and social aspecls. Ol course,
lhese recommendalions are based on lhe law as il slands now, on lhe assumplion lhal Seclion 293 ol
lhe Criminal Code will be mainlained.
9
Legal aspecls
1he crimihalizaIioh o! polygamy ih Cahada musI be maihIaihed, ahd goverhmehIs musI
vigorously supporI Ihe cohsIiIuIiohaliIy o! SecIioh 293 o! Ihe Crimihal Code be!ore Ihe
courIs.
IhIervehIioh policies musI be developed Io sIrehgIheh ahd !ocus sIaIe acIioh agaihsI
polygamy.
The aulhorilies musl be vigilanl in cracking down on cases ol polygamy, lor even il lhe laller are a minor
phenomenon lhey could encourage olhers lo adopl lhe praclice.
Legal aclion againsl polygamy should be applied wilh discrelion. There is no need lo conducl a wilch-
hunl lo arresl everyone in lhe counlry who is in a polygamous marriage. lnlervenlion should be locused,
slralegically, lo dissuade as many people as possible in lhe communilies concerned lrom praclising
polygamy. lnlervenlion policies should be eslablished and applied by Crown proseculors, police lorces,
leaders who violale Canadian law by consecraling polygamous unions. ll would also be imporlanl lo
deal severely wilh lhe mosl visible cases ol polygamy, which serve as examples lo communily members.
When a woman suspecls her husband ol aclive or planned polygamy, lhe maller should be invesligaled
and dissuasion exerled. Logically, legal penallies should only be applied lo polygamous men, since lheir
wives have only a single husband. Any allempl lo lake aclion againsl women living in a polygamous
union would be counler-produclive.
However, belore conducling any operalion lo slrenglhen lhe ban againsl polygamy, lwo condilions are
necessary. lirsl, il is crucial lo raise public awareness on lhe maller, parlicularly among lhe media and
human righls groups, by inlorming lhem adequalely aboul polygamy's harmlul ellecls and lhe reasons
lor lhe inlervenlion. Second, any aclion lo demand applicalion ol lhe law musl be accompanied by
adequale measures lo prolecl lhe women and children who would be direclly allecled. ll lhose lwo
condilions are nol mel, public opinion would lurn swillly againsl such inlervenlion, giving indirecl sup-
porl lo polygamy. The hislory ol lhe Mormons lells us lhal slale inlervenlion wilhoul previously raising
public awareness would, in lhe long lerm, cause more damage lhan doing nolhing.
!0
Ol course, as wilh olher praclices delended in lhe name ol individual liberlies or a cullure, religion
or idenlily, polygamy will no doubl always be a maller ol conlroversy. Consequenlly, we cannol wail
lor unanimily belore acling. 8ul we musl be prepared lo lace crilicism, and musl seek broad sup-
porl lor lhe ban againsl polygamy and lor slale inlervenlion. Olher slralegic measures should also
be developed, in close consullalion wilh lhe women ol communilies where polygamy is praclised, lo
reduce inlernal resislance lo applicalion ol lhe law.
LxisIihg laws agaihsI Ihe delegaIioh o! !amily law Io religious auIhoriIies musI be maihIai-
hed ahd sIrehgIhehed.
Lxperience shows lhal religious aulhorilies ol all lailhs are likely lo apply rules ol marriage and divorce
lhal are nol in line wilh civil law and lhe principle ol equal righls. Lnlrusling marriage and lamily rela-
lions lo non-public powers would impede lhe slale's capacily lo guaranlee and apply lhe principle ol
equal righls lor bolh sexes.
!!
lmmigralion aspecls
Cahada, ahd Québec especially, musI dehy admissioh Io ahy immigrahI who is ehgaged ih
a polygamous marriage, ih order Io avoid ihcreasihg Ihe humber o! polygamous !amilies
livihg here.
The currenl Canadian policy, which consisls ol accepling lhe immigralion ol a polygamous husband
and a single spouse by considering lhe marriage monogamous, is incoherenl and inlringes on lhe righls
ol lhe olher wives who are lell behind in lheir counlry ol origin. lurlhermore, in lacl lhe polygamous
rsl. He is lhen allowed
lo bring wilh him lhe minor children ol his olher wives, lhus separaling lhem lrom lheir molhers, who
calion because lheir husband already has a wile
in Canada.
To respecl lhe righls ol women and children lrom polygamous socielies, il would be lairer lo make
polygamy a crilerion rendering a person ineligible lor immigralion. ll would be irresponsible lo do
lhe opposile, accepling all members ol a polygamous lamily, as cerlain parlisans ol decriminalizalion
suggesl. Thal would open lhe door lo enormous social problems. lrance experienced lhose problems
belore changing course and prohibiling lhe immigralion ol mulliple wives wilh a polygamous husband.
SIrehgIheh Ihe rule by which ciIizehship obIaihed Ihrough misrepresehIaIioh regardihg
polygamy cah be revoked, Io cuI dowh oh !raud.
!2
Social aspecls
PrevehIioh ahd educaIioh
To eliminale polygamy, prevenlion and educalion are whal is mosl imporlanl, parlicularly lor minorilies
lhal accepl lhe praclice. ll is lherelore essenlial lhal lhe emphasis be placed on lhe lollowing priorilies.
Lxercise greaIer vigilahce Ioward privaIe coh!essiohal schools o! all origihs Io ehsure Ihe
!ollowihg Ihree ihdispehsable cohdiIiohs:
a) lhal lhe curriculum laughl in such schools complies lully wilh lhe requiremenls ol lhe Minislere
de l'Lducalion,
b) lhal girls receive a complele educalion, idenlical lo lhal ol boys, so lhey can have access lo all
prolessions,
c) lhal lhere be no promolion ol polygamy or any conlenl ol a misogynisl or racisl characler in
religious or olher inslruclion. Ullimalely, subsidies musl cease lo schools lhal in any way pro-
mole polygamy and inequalily belween lhe sexes.
lorlh in lhe charlers ol righls. Thal implies lhal all religious communilies musl volunlarily renounce lhe
promolion ol polygamy and lhe misogynisl or racisl inlerprelalion ol sacred lexls, which is in no way a
negalion ol religious lreedom. The vigilance and supporl ol lhe slale are necessary lo ensure lhal lhis
minimum slandard is respecled by all lailhs, wilhoul exceplion, lo avoid lhe discriminalion or viclimiza-
lion ol women.
Provide adequaIe Iraihihg Io social workers ih commuhiIies !rom polygamous socieIies, so
Ihey cah recoghize ahd uhdersIahd Ihe social implicaIiohs o! polygamy ahd cah proIecI Ihe
righIs o! Ihe womeh ahd childreh cohcerhed.
AcIively promoIe Ihe righIs o! womeh ahd childreh, parIicularly amohg hew immigrahIs
ahd commuhiIies where polygamy is accepIed, Io prevehI ahy ihcrease o! polygamous
marriages here.
!3
ll we wanl lo avoid an increase in lhe number ol clandesline polygamous marriages in Canada, il
is essenlial lo lake whalever sleps are necessary lo reach women and girls in communilies where
polygamy is lradilionally accepled. Nol only musl lhey be inlormed ol lheir righls as cilizens, including
lhe righl lo reluse or leave a lorced or polygamous marriage, lhey musl also be ollered lhe supporl
lhey need lo resisl pressure lrom lhose around lhem, lhereby prevenling polygamy and lhe violalion
ol lheir righls.
We should also pul grealer emphasis on educalion aboul democralic values, aboul lhe harmlul ellecls
ol polygamy on women and children, and aboul lheological divergence on lhe subjecl ol polygamy.
Since polygamy is ollen a maller ol sincere religious beliel, a secular approach is nol enough. Slralegic
alliances could be lormed wilh people in lhe communilies concerned, people who could propose an
inlerprelalion ol lhe religious lexls lhal is more in line wilh respecl lor women righls, lhis would reduce
inlernal resislance lo lhe changes soughl.
ProIecIihg persohs aI risk
lhe righls violalions il enlails. ll is essenlial lo ensure in parallel lhe proleclion ol women and children
in polygamous lamilies.
IhIegraIe ihIo exisIihg programs a compohehI aimed aI ehsurihg Ihe proIecIioh o! womeh
ahd childreh ih polygamous !amilies, ahd provide !or measures adapIed Io Iheir heeds.
ll is indeed crilical lhal proleclion and adequale supporl be ollered lo persons al risk, so lhey can bring
charges and prolecl lhemselves lrom lhe abuses associaled wilh lhe polygamous way ol lile. To lhis
ellecl, we musl explore all exisling anchor poinls by which lhese people could be reached, lor example
schools, lhe heallh syslem and social services.
!4
10. Provide supporI Io womeh ahd girls who wahI Io leave Ihe polygamous way o! li!e.
The hislory ol lhe Mormons reveals lhal lhe wives ol a polygamous husband, even when married by
lorce, shackled by a succession ol pregnancies and reduced lo lhe slalus ol domeslic slaves, nonelhe-
less receive a lorm ol securily. lor lhem, lhe idea ol leaving lheir communily is like jumping inlo lhe
polygamous marriage lhal lhey wish lhey could leave.
Consequenlly, il is essenlial lo provide lor measures lhal are lailored lo each conlexl, lhal would be
parl ol a process ol long-lerm supporl aimed al helping women overcome lhe mulliple challenges ol
leaving lheir polygamous way ol lile. Such measures could include, lor example, supporl in lerms ol
housing, employmenl, prolessional lraining, parenlal supporl and social inlegralion. We could consider
lhe possibilily ol providing communily associalions, and parlicularly women's groups, wilh lhe means
ll lhis mission. We should pul grealer emphasis on civil sociely as lhe way lo achieve lhe elimina-
lion ol polygamy.
11. Fihally, giveh Ihe complexiIy o! Ihe quesIiohs raised by Ihe pracIice o! polygamy, !uhdihg
should be provided !or sIudies oh womeh livihg or who were !ormerly livihg polygamous
uhioh ih order Io beIIer uhdersIahd Iheir realiIies ahd heeds. Ih Ihe same veih, issue Iables
should be seI up Io ihiIiaIe ahd pursue discussioh wiIh people ih civil socieIy, ihcludihg
womeh a!!ecIed by polygamy, wiIh Ihe goal o! sIoppihg ahd elimihaIihg Ihis pracIice ih due
respecI !or Ihe righIs o! womeh ahd childreh.
!5
Credils and 8ibliography
Polygamy ahd Ihe RighIs o! Womeh
Opinion summary
www.placealegaliIe.gouv.qc.ca
ol lhe Quebec governmenl, al droil.auleur©cspq.gouv.qc.ca
Ce documehI esI aussi dispohible eh !rahçais.
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