Polygamy is the marriage of one person to multiple spouses. The most common form of polygamy is polygyny which is the union of one man to multiple women. An estimated 2 billion people worldwide actively practise polygamy. In the United States, an estimated 100,000 people are believed to be in polygamous relationships; polygamy is most common in the U.S. amongst mormon fundamentalists and muslims.
Polygamy is legal in about 25% of the world’s nations (i.e. 200 countries). In countries such as France, though illegal, there are no laws against a person living with more than one partner/spouse. In other countries like Ghana, though illegal under Civil law, polygamy is recognized under customary law and Sharia law. Kenya as recently as in 2014 passed legislature legalizing polygamy.
Though prohibited by law in most developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, polygamy seems to be on a slow rise behind closed doors, as evidenced in an increasing number of reality TV shows (Sister Wives, Big Love, My Five Wives) showcasing this plural lifestyle in the United States. In a July 2015 article, Nicola Harley writes on the Telegraph, “The UK has seen a surge in sharia marriages with many of them involving polygamy. A lawyer dealing with cases claims there are now up to 100,000 such marriages mostly involving young Muslim men.”
The following documentary highlights the reality of polygamy for some British Muslims:
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