Tuesday, December 7, 2010

7th December 2010

After a four-day break, the polygamy reference continued today with two expert witnesses in attendance. The first was professor Shoshona Grossbard, who teaches at San Diego State University in the areas of economics, power and economics, and the economics of marriage. Her research on polygamy covered tribes in Africa, groups in Arab countries. Her Ph.D. Dissertation had been written on the politics of polygamy.

She spoke if the similarities in the practice of polygamy throughout the world, saying that polygamy was either culture-or religion-based. When the supply of young women goes own, demand increases. In polygamy men find ways to limit the power of women, and many males in polygamous communities use female circumcision as one way to control their women.

It is much easier for a man to divorce a woman than for a woman to divorce her husband. A Moslem man has only to say three times “I divorce you”, and his wife is forced to leave – without her children, who remain in the custody of her husband. Many women are kept in purdah (total isolation). Romantic love is frowned upon because that makesw omen more difficult to control, and opportunities for women to participate in the labour force outside their community are few and far between.

Professor Grossbard spoke of jealousy among wives, psychological problems experienced by them, together with depression and obsessive/compulsive disorder. Widowhood brought with it assignment to a new husband. Limited educational opportunities are rife in polygamous societies, and health problems and mortality rates are higher than in the general population. She spoke also of the constant fear the many wives live in of their husband taking yet another wife.

Part of her evidence dealt with a document produced by women in Qu├ębec on the harms of polygamy. Its title is Avis: la Polygamie au regard des droits des femmes (“Opinion: Polygamy as it concerns the rights of women.” If you Google the French title you will find it. I am not aware of a translation yet.) Women in that Province are being proactive in their opposition to the decriminalizing of polygamy in Canada.

Dr. Grossbard concluded by stating that she found it difficult to obtain access to birth registration records for members of polygamous communities. Such details would enable the public to be aware of the age of birth mothers.

Read more of Dr. Grossbard's comments here

The afternoon session was devoted to demographic information (mostly about Canada) offered by Dr. Zheng Wu, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Victoria. He used Statistics Canada materials to give evidence on the state of non-polygamous “relationship” in Canada – both in historical perspective and up to the last Census. One of the points he made was that, in 2007, 75,000 crimes were committed against family members in this country, with probably many more that went unreported to the police. Dr. Wu also pointed out that the statistical average age for women to marry in Canada is 22 years. Historically, it has not been lower than 20 years.

Dr. Wu admitted that he knew very little about polygamous communities, and that StatsCan did not help in this regard. However, he gave a full and interesting snapshot of monogamous family and other varieties of relationships as they exist today in this country.

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