Thursday, December 16, 2010

Expert Witness Dr. Rose McDermott

 Journalist Keith Fraser (The Province) wrote today:

As the rate of polygamy increases, the lives of women and children and the conditions in the countries in which they live all worsen, a political-science professor testified Thursday.
Dr. Rose McDermott, a political science professor at Brown University in Rhode Island, told the polygamy trial that she had conducted a statistical analysis of polygamy around the world.

She told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that as the rate and degree of polygamy increases, the age in marriage of women declines, the rate of maternal mortality increases, life expectancy decreases and the birthrate increases.

The rate of births to women aged 15 to 19 increases, along with the rate of sex trafficking, female genital mutilation and domestic violence, she said.

“I remind the court that domestic violence includes marital rape and other forms of assault.”

McDermott said polygamy’s effect on children is that the rate of primary and secondary education for both boys and girls decreases, especially at the secondary level.

The practice of multiple marriages also has an effect on the nation state, said McDermott.
“As polygamy increases the degree of inequity in family law increases, meaning the degree to which women are not treated equitably before the law increases.”

The degree and number of civil liberties declines along with the degree and number of political rights, she said.

During McDermott’s cross-examination, George Macintosh, a lawyer appointed by the court to martial the forces opposing Canada’s polygamy law, pointed out some findings from a website the professor relied upon for her statistical analysis.

Macintosh pointed out that the website concluded that there was no evidence polygamy was a national issue in Canada, let alone a cultural or regional occurrence.  The practice of polygamy in Canada appeared to be extremely minimal or non-existent, he said.
“That would accord with your knowledge of Canada,” asked Macintosh.
“Yes,” replied McDermott.
“Monogamy (in Canada) is the rule and widespread?” said Macintosh.
“Yes,” said McDermott.

Asked by Macintosh how many people practice polygamy in Canada, McDermott said she was not aware of any credible numbers, but pressed for a figure she said there were 10,000.
Macintosh asked where she had got the figure and McDermott replied that she heard it from a media source.

My comment:  Dr. McDermott stated that she has been researching polygamy and polygyny for ten years, and to be fair, her mandate for this appearance was to present to the court a world view of the harms of these practices.  Her presentation on the global perspective was indeed persuasive.

After a week devoted to opening statements by all the parties involved, we have now had three weeks of testimony in this polygamy reference.  Witnesses have included experts on statistics, sociology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology - and people who have lived the polygynous experience for many years.  To this point, the proceedings have challenged me in many ways - intellectually, emotionally and physically.

We now take a break for the holidays, and Court reconvenes on Wednesday 5th January.  I send you all my good wishes for health and happiness in the New Year.

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