Thursday, October 8, 2009

polygamy, polygyny

Trad: My humble contribution to the polygamy debate

Wednesday, 7 October 2009 /

The Polygamy debate last year produced results. Thanks to Crikey, the ABC, Seven’s Sunrise, 2UE and a number of online publishers, the federal attorney general introduced laws to give some rights to spurned mistresses.

I feel honoured and privileged to have been chosen to make my humble contribution to that debate. I am delighted that I have offered a service to women in Australia.

This year, the Sydney Opera House and the St. James Ethics Centre got together and decided to host the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. I was invited to resuscitate my argument from last year.

Again, I saw this as an opportunity to serve the women of Australia.

I did not create the debate, it came to me, I do not like generating controversy, however, if it comes to me, I will address it forthrightly with outright conviction in the wisdom of my Creator Whose work I am honoured to do. Some unjustly view my faith in the wisdom of God as controversial.

We are still some way from finished with the debate on plural unions. Whilst we managed to get some rights for the mistress last year, we still need to take away the stigma from her and all the women who exceed the gender ratio. This ratio is not only determined by raw population numbers, one must also deduct from the male population the disproportionate number of male prisoners and any disproportionate number of males to females who pursue same gender unions.

Sometimes, it breaks my heart to be proved right as was the case with the British headlines yesterday about a successful doctor allegedly poisoning his mistress to bring about an abortion. Part of my argument to decriminalise polygamy includes the right of the second woman to bear children and the right of the child of such a relationship to live life without stigma. The second woman should not be treated as a mistress, she should be able to expect to be treated as a proper partner or spouse.

Yes, the Justinian facade that I previously mentioned has also influenced non-Greco/Roman societies with more countries frowning on the open plural relationships.

In modern society monogamy is regularly breached. Clandestine adultery is widespread. Therefore, decriminalising polygamy and removing its social social stigma will further guarantee the rights of women.

In this debate, some have theorised that in order to make such laws equal, they would like me to recognise polyandry.

The reality of decriminalising plural unions would produce a law that is non-discriminatory by nature. The secular system would be able to acknowledge both forms of polygamy. It would remain then up to the various religious traditions to decide which to bless for their own adherents. Plural secular marriages can go in whichever direction they choose, those people who do not follow my religious tradition are not obliged to live by its rules.

To dissuade from the eventuality of polyandry though, I offer the following rationalisations:
The gender ratio pool (excluding societies that practice the horrors of gender-selective ab-rtion). Without even having to point at statistics, it is elementary knowledge that a disproportionate number of women are exploited through pr-stitution and p-rnography. Allowing these women the option to enter an open rather than a secret union with an attached man will save many of them from this form of exploitation.

Relationships are not just about intimacy, they carry emotions as well as various forms of support. We see the impost of the commitment more clearly if we temporarily put the brief climactic conclusion aside. When we do so, it becomes salient that polygyny creates more responsibilities for the male and gives advantage to the woman.
The paternity is more clearly discernable.

The question of support is easily addressed in such situation. As a general rule that can be fine-tuned, the non polygamous person in the relationship will have rights similar to those that exist today whereas the polygamist is limited to a share of what he or she had brought into the union. The polygamous person in a polygynous union is the male; it is the female in a polyandrous union. This suggestion would eliminate or reduce the risk of prospecting.

The polygamy debate that comes to me from time to time is another opportunity to promote honesty, openness and frank discussion in relationships. Without it, all we do is perpetuate suspicions and the ignorance is bliss myth that everything is hunky-dory.

Article courtesy of

Why should polygamy be a crime?

Why should polygamy be a crime?
Courtesy Fairfax media (Sydney Morning Herald)
October 3, 2009 - 6:18AM

In a liberal society such as Australia, it should not be a crime to have more than one wife, argues Keysar Trad.

IN JUNE last year, Triple J's current affairs program Hack ran an item on plural relationships. The ABC's youth broadcaster interviewed me about polygyny, a form of polygamous marriage in which a man has more than one wife at the same time. A bisexual couple were also interviewed.

To my surprise, I was reported on the ABC's respected current affairs program AM the next morning. Without speaking to me again and after seeking comments from the Attorney-General's office, AM ran the line: “Undeterred Keysar Trad says he's hoping to find another wife to join his family. To do so, he says, would be to honour his first wife.”

No such comment had aired on Hack. The media then spent more than a week mocking the practice of a husband having two or more wives simultaneously. No one took issue with the bisexual relationship, which involved one man and his female partner, who also had a relationship with another woman.

At the end of an interview on 2UE, Mike Carlton declared that, as a Judeo-Christian nation, we marry one person for life. After a pause, he added that we just have lots of affairs on the side.
In Western society, the “other woman” in an affair is stigmatised. She faces significant pressure to keep the relationship secret to protect her man because modern society frowns on plural heterosexual relations. If she fell pregnant, society – including her partner – could place great pressure on her to have an abortion.

The mistress in an affair should have rights. She needs to be protected if she decides to end the relationship because the man refuses to live up to her expectations and leave his wife.

The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, must have been paying attention. A few months later, he introduced legislation granting rights to the second woman so that she could also share the assets of her married lover.

The problem of deception, however, does not go away. Why in the liberal 21st century must we live a lie in relationships? And why do we continue to maintain a facade that monogamy is a perfect institution, when studies consistently reveal that most men admit to having affairs? Monogamy is great, but it is clearly not for everybody.

Islam openly acknowledges this fact of human nature and stipulates a regulatory framework for plural relations. But modern Western society, suspicious of all things Islamic, fails to recognise the qualities of Muslim marriage and family.

Legally enforceable monogamy was introduced by Emperor Justinian in the year 534. Justinian himself kept a courtesan as a mistress. He married her after the death of his wife, Euphemia, and only after he convinced Justin, his predecessor, to change the law so that senators could marry actresses and courtesans.

Justinian is said to have criminalised plural unions under the influence of St Augustine, though Augustine clearly stated in his treatise on marriage that having several wives is not “contrary to the nature of marriage”. Yet like other church fathers, Augustine preferred celibacy, or monogamous marriage if one could not be celibate.

Over the years, I have counselled adulterers from different faith backgrounds. I never tried to punish, hurt or expose them. I tried to guide them to mend their ways. I tried to help them understand that sex outside marriage was neither in their best interests nor in the best interests of society. If they were married, I did my best to ensure that their marriage remained safe and stable. Had they been in plural unions that conformed to the Islamic regulatory framework, such relationships would not have been adulterous, but divinely sanctioned unions.

Australian law has maintained the Justinian facade that a marriage is one man and one woman, and that every other relationship must be kept secret. Under Australian law, bigamy attracts penalties of up to seven years' imprisonment. On the other hand, polygamous marriages conducted overseas are recognised under family law for the purpose of property settlements.
When a couple marry in a Christian church, it indicates they want their marriage to be governed by the rules of that church. The same applies for unions conducted under Muslim rules. For a marriage to be valid under Islam, it requires the consent of both parties, at least two witnesses and a dowry paid by the groom to the bride as a gift for her to use as she pleases.

There is no requirement for such a union to be "legally" registered with a secular body that does not recognise the clauses in a Muslim union. Plural relations of this nature that take place in Australia are treated like de facto relationships and are not registered. This keeps them outside the ambit of the nation's criminal and marriage laws. Such unions are not considered adulterous because they follow the rules of an Islamic union. They are not secret and they carry no stigma under God.

This is not to say that people are actively encouraged to enter such unions. Islam stipulates very strict equality in the treatment of wives. If a man cannot treat his wives equally, the Koran says he should have only one. Monogamy is the norm in Muslim communities. However, men who are capable of supporting more than one partner equally are advised to be open, honest and accountable in their relationships and to treat their wives fairly.

Yes, polygyny may lead to jealousy. We are all human. But in a caring and sharing world where we become euphoric when we give to those in need, sponsor orphans and provide foster care, the ultimate in giving is for a woman to give a fraction of her husband's time and affection to another woman who is willing to share with her. It is a spiritually rewarding experience that allows women to grow while the husband toils to provide for more than one partner.

In most cases, the husband ends up providing separate accommodation. The women can agree to share dwellings – it's entirely up to them. Many men in Western society complain about their mother-in-law or a “nagging” wife. If his wife and in-laws were difficult, would he seek more of the same? The willingness of a man to take on another wife is in fact a form of praise to his first wife.

While Islam sanctions polygyny, it does not condone threesomes. Islam also does not permit polyandry, a form of relationship in which a wife takes more than one husband. There are many reasons for this. Some are medical, some relate to paternity. Others pertain to the sexual proclivities of the different genders. The sex therapist Bettina Arndt, promoting her book Sex Diaries, outlined the merits of women saying "yes" more often to sex with their husbands. If Arndt's research is reflective of a greater portion of the population, a monogamous relationship leads to reduced interest in sex among women and a perpetual state of conjugal frustration among men.

If men in monogamous relations are not satiated, by its very nature polyandry creates an overwhelming burden for a woman in long-term relationships.

Who someone marries first is an accident of history. If a man who has an affair had met his mistress before his wife, he may have married her. Why maintain the facade that is the Justinian doctrine of monogamy knowing it has failed as a social experiment?

A man can have multiple girlfriends. Why not formalise that into a commitment for life? Why should “bigamy” be a crime?

Keysar Trad is president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia. He will deliver a speech on why polygamy and other Islamic values are good for Australia at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Opera House today.

Article courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald, article first published (as far as I could find):
Sydney Morning Herald
The Age
The Times of Brisbane
The WA Times

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