January 12, 2006

Canadian report: legalize polygamy

Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women. The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.” -- quoted from a report funded by the federal Justice Department and obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act
A new study argues that Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy while changing other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

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 authors of the report contend that Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code banning polygamy serves no useful purpose and in any case is rarely prosecuted. Instead, the report argues, Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights. This would make up for the inconsistent legislation that current exists across the provinces, some of which — 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."


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