Tuesday 26 January 2016

Women Who Love To Share Their Husband - Women Are Increasingly Electing To Become “Co-wives”

Farzana is a senior nurse, 36, attractive, selfpossessed and articulate. “I have begun to consider polygamy,” she tells me at a matchmaking event in central London for divorced and widowed Muslims interested in marrying again. “When you think about love in an Islamic way, the co-wife idea makes sense.”

London Muslim matrimonial scene, women are increasingly electing to become “co-wives” – in other words, to become a man’s second or third wife.  Raja gets five to ten requests every week from women who are “comfortable with the notion of a part-time man”. He explained: “Career women don’t want a full-time husband. They don’t have time.” So couples live separately, a husband visiting his wives on a rota.

If you’re divorced, widowed or over 30 and Muslim, finding a husband in this country can be a challenge. Does polygamy, or more specifically polygyny (a man taking more than one wife, as opposed to a woman taking more than one husband), as sanctioned by the Quran, offer a possible solution?
Aisha (not her real name), a divorced single mother with two children, recently chose to become a second wife. She was introduced to her husband by a friend. She says that at first she was hesitant. “I was like, ‘No, I can’t do it. I’m too jealous as a person. I wouldn’t be able to do it.’ But the more that time went on and I started thinking about it, especially more maturely, I saw the beauty of it.”
They agreed on the terms of the marriage by email, covering details such as “how many days he’d spend with me and how many days he’d spend with his other wife, and money and living arrangements”. They then met twice, liked each other, set a date and were married. Her husband now spends three days with Aisha and her two children from her previous marriage and then three days with his other family, unless one of them is ill, in which case he stays to help but has to make up the missed time to his other wife.
She confesses that “if he was to stay all the time I’d love it”, but says that having time off “is definitely beneficial in some ways as well”. She has “more freedom” to see her friends and her family, and it is a relief “not having a man in your face half the time, when you are cranky, and he can go somewhere else and you can manage the kids on your own”.

As a divorcee, bringing up children on her own for three years before remarrying, she built up an independent life for herself: “It’s hard to let your goals go for a man all over again.” Although she concedes they have had a “few teething problems” and that it took his first wife “some time to come to terms with it”, now, she says, they “have come to an understanding . . . We are finding our feet.” Both sets of children are aware of the new situation and have accepted it. In fact, she says that her husband’s daughter from his first marriage “can’t wait to meet second Mummy” and her own son, who now has a father figure and “role model” that he was previously lacking, is “really happy with it”. They have yet to experience “a big family get-together”, but Aisha says she is “hopeful that will happen soon . . . I’ve spoken to her [the first wife] a couple of times. She seems really lovely. I would really like for us to become good friends . . . for there to be that kind of bond of sisterhood between us.”
The main obstacle to happiness, according to Aisha, “is the sense of ownership” and jealousy. “But that’s something that you’ve just got to use your wisdom to get past . . . It’s more important for me to have a father for my children . . . to have a helping hand when I need it.” She insists that problems arise only when the husband does not treat both wives equally, as explicitly mandated in the Quran, or when the wives are not mature enough to rationalise and accept the situation.
Anecdotal evidence, in the absence of the statistical kind, suggests that polygamy is on the rise in Britain. And according to a poll conducted over a week by, 33 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women would choose to be part of a polygamous marriage. Because such marriages take place through an unregistered marriage contract, they do not constitute bigamy, a criminal offence in the UK.
The reasons for polygamy are complex. Aisha says that, from her point of view, “Single mums don’t have the pick of the bunch . . . [Polygamy] is there so we can still have the benefits of marriage, so we don’t have to be left on the shelf, so our children can still have role models, father figures, and so we can still have that emotional stability, financial stability and security.”

The stigma of divorce, as well as later marriages and the importing of foreign brides (15,500 women were admitted to the UK in 2011 as wives of British men, according to Home Office figures), have all exacerbated the problem for Muslim women looking for a husband. 
Aisha tells me that her husband saw polygamy as his religious duty. “A lot of people think it’s just about sex but . . . sex goes out the window after a while. If you don’t want your husband marrying someone else, what would happen to these single mums, then, and these divorcees? Is it fair that they just stay on the shelf? We should be looking after our community. Islam is all about community and society and we should look after our brothers and our sisters equally, otherwise it’s every man for themselves.”

Kalsoom Bashir, the project manager of the Muslim women’s rights organisation Inspire, and Khola Hasan of the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, east London, both believe that forced marriage is another reason for polygamy. British men are forced into marriages, often with cousins imported from “back home” with whom they have nothing in common. “For a man who has been in the difficult situation of being forced into a marriage, and the numbers are huge in Britain, absolutely huge . . . for many of them, polygamy is a good way of being happy and keeping the family happy,” Hasan explains.

The Quran instructs Muslim men to “marry women of your choice two or three or four”, but warns that “if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly [with them] then only one or [your concubines]. That is more fitting so that you do not deviate from the right course.” The Prophet Muhammad said, “Whosoever has two wives and he inclines towards one to the exclusion of the other, he will come on the Day of Judgement with his body dropping or bending down.”
In other words, “It is mission impossible,” according to Mufti Barkatulla, a senior imam and sharia council judge in Leyton. He firmly believes that there is no place for polygamy in modern Britain. 

“There are a number of cases we have come across and there is hardly a case where a man can balance all the duties required in a polygamous situation . . . In today’s industrial society, it is impossible to observe the conditions laid down by the scriptures.” Polygamy, he points out, predates Islam and was permitted in Islam in the context of war to offer protection to war orphans and widows. Many of the Prophet’s 11 wives were widows.
Sara (not her real name) is a 40-year-old Muslim convert. She accepted the practice of polygamy as part of her religion and when she fell in love with a married man, she was the one who suggested that she become his second wife. “I was busy and studying. I felt I could cope with not having someone around all the time,” she tells me.

In reality, though, Sara now says, their marriage was more like a religiously sanctioned affair. “Because of the social taboos against [polygamy], it had to be secret from the community and I couldn’t have any children . . . because then it will be known that he has a second wife.” Although she met her husband’s first wife, going on holiday with her once and even offering to babysit her children, the first wife never fully accepted the situation. “I really had this idea that we somehow would eventually find some way of getting on . . . I was imagining it would be like these stories I have heard of where it works, so I thought it would just be a matter of time and we were destined to be together.” Eventually, after six years, Sara sought a divorce.
In his 25 years presiding over thousands of divorce cases at the Islamic Sharia Council, Mufti Barkatulla has heard many similar stories. Between 2010 and 2011, 43 out of the 700 applications for divorce to Leyton’s sharia council cited polygamy as the main reason.

Mufti Barkatulla and Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the former director of the Muslim Institute, devised a Muslim marriage contract – in effect, a religiously sanctioned prenup, to be signed at the time of the nikah, or religious ceremony – that sought to address the imbalance in Muslim marriages, giving women equal rights to divorce, allowing them to feel safe from rape or abuse, and preventing husbands from taking a second wife. It also states that the nikah must happen in conjunction with a civil ceremony, for extra protection.

He tells me the story of a woman whose husband “had agreed to a civil ceremony but because dates and everything were not agreed the husband kept on delaying it”. One day when she got home, she found a notice on the door: “Everything is over. Collect your things from my sister’s house.” The woman told him that she felt as though she had been “on trial” but eventually was discarded.

An estimated 70-75 per cent of Muslim marriages in the UK are not registered under the Marriage Act, unlike Christian and Jewish marriages, which are registered automatically. Mosques have the legal right to register to conduct civil weddings, but only about one in ten have chosen to do so. A nikah or Muslim marriage can be performed anywhere, even using proxies or on Skype. When a marriage is not registered and the relationship breaks down, the unregistered wife has no rights to spousal or child support and can even be left homeless, denied her due share. In the event of the husband’s death, the registered wife and her children will inherit and the unregistered wife and children will not.

If Muslim marriages are unregistered, and take place outside of the jurisdiction of this country, there is no automatic recourse to justice through the British courts. Instead, an aggrieved party must go to an unregulated sharia council for mediation. The crossbencher Baroness (Caroline) Cox is concerned by this clash between sharia and civil law. “There is now operating in this country a kind of parallel quasi-legal system and that goes against the fundamental principle of liberal democracy of one law for all.” Of polygamy, she says: “To have more than one wife is not acceptable in the UK and people . . . must accept the laws of the land they choose to live in.” In 2011, she introduced the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Lords last October and “would make it illegal for any person or contacts to be established which would operate as a kind of alternative legal system. Anyone purporting to operate in that way in a judicial capacity would actually be committing a criminal offence that could [be punished with] a prison sentence for this alternative legal system.” The bill will be re-tabled in the next Parliament. 
Khola Hasan of Leyton’s sharia council believes that forcing mosques to register all nikahs, and thereby banning polygamy, will only make Muslims feel more persecuted. “The Muslim community in Britain already feels victimised,” she says, and it will inevitably force the practice underground, leaving women more vulnerable. She argues that, rather than banning polygamy, which she views as a “solution to many complex and difficult situations”, the practice should in fact be recognised by British law.

According to the poll, 61 per cent of Muslim men and 28 per cent of Muslim women agree with Hasan that British law should be changed to permit polygamy. “Britain is refusing to accept that polygamy takes place,” she says. “It’s a reality and I think the British legal system is going to have to open its eyes and accept that it’s a reality in Britain.

Here is the evolutionary portion of the decision, which is well worth reading in full.  Two evolutionary psychologists testified in the proceedings, describing typical outcomes that can be expected from polygynous mating arrangements. Recall that polygyny means one male and multiple females (and is vastly, vastly more common in human history thanpolandry, which means one woman and multiple men).

This illustration reveals the underlying arithmetic that can result in a pool of low-status unmarried men. Imagine a society of 40 adults, 20 males and 20 females … Suppose those 20 males vary from the unemployed high-school drop outs to CEOs, or billionaires … Let’s assume that the twelve men with the highest status marry 12 of the 20 women in monogamous marriages. 

Then, the top five men (25% of the population) all take a second wife, and the top two (10%) take a third wife. Finally, the top guy takes a fourth wife. This means that of all marriages, 58% are monogamous. Only men in the to 10% of status or wealth married more than two women. The most wives anyone has is four.

The degree of polygynous marriage is not extreme in cross-cultural perspective … but it creates a pool of unmarried men equal to 40% of the male population who are incentivized to take substantial risks so they can eventually participate in the mating and marriage market. 

This pattern is consistent with what we would expect from an evolutionary approach to humans, and with what is known empirically about male strategies. The evidence outlined below shows that the creation of this pool will likely have a number of outcomes.
(Readers may remember my post on increasing (sexual) inequality.)
Why does this matter?  Here are the four sections of his testimony, focusing on polygyny’s effects on men, children, women, and society (admittedly speculative).
One more note before going into this testimony: I don’t know Dr. Henrich, I haven’t read his other work, and I don’t know his reputation.  He is in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia.  Here’s his academic homepage.  Judge for yourself.

1. Polygyny’s Creation of a Pool of Unmarried Low-Status Men
Marriage civilizes men:
Dr. Henrich begins with an ample body of research that shows marriage makes men much less likely to commit crimes such as murder, robbery and rape. One such study showed that marriage reduced a man’s likelihood of committing a crime by 35%. This study was particularly compelling as it did not simply compare the criminality of married and unmarried men, but used longitudinal data to track boys from a reform school from age 17 to 70. In this study, crime rates not only decreased when those men were married, but increased when they divorced or were widowed. Other studies are consistent in showing the association between monogamous marriage and decreased male criminality.
He cites studies (not listed in the decision) that examine the relationship between crime and 

1) the degree of polygyny across countries, 2) the percentage of unmarried males, and 3) sex ratio of males to females in countries like China, as a result of their one-child policy and a desire to have sons and abort / kill daughters.

2. Polygyny’s Effects on Male Parental Investment
Men in polygynous societies aren’t very good fathers:
Another major predicted consequence of widespread polygyny is decreased male parental investment. The underlying theory is that since married men would remain perennially in the marriage market, high-status men could choose to invest their resources in acquiring more wives rather than investing in their children. Similarly, the pool of unmarried men would be forced to invest their resources in attempting to improve their status so as to improve their chances of finding a bride.

As support for this proposition, Dr. Henrich relied on findings from 19th century census data from Mormon polygynous communities and from contemporary studies of African societies.
The study of historical Mormon polygynous communities showed that the children of poorer men (from the bottom 16% of wealth in that community) had higher survival rates than those of the richest men in the community (from the top 2%). The poor men had an average of 6.9 children survive until age 15. For the rich men, despite having more total offspring than the poor men and having over 10 times the wealth, only 5.5 children survived until age 15 on average. Dr. Henrichconcludes that this data supports the idea “that in polygynous systems poor, but married, men will have no choice but to invest in their offspring while rich, high-status men will invest in getting more wives” (at 47).

The patterns observed in recent studies of polygamous African societies are similar. The seven studies of this nature cited by Dr. Henrich reported that “children of polygynous families are at increased risk of diminished nutritional status, poor health outcomes, and mortality” (at 47). One study found that amongst the Dogon of Mali, even though per capita resources were equivalent between monogamous and polygamous households, children under age 10 in polygynous households were 7 to 11 times more likely to die.

3. Polygyny, Age of marriage, the Age Gap, and Gender Equality
Allegedly, when the competition for brides go up, men try to secure brides at younger ages.  Male kin learn the value of their female relatives, start treating them like an economic resource, and exert control of women’s reproductive lives.
Competition drives men to use whatever connections, advantages, and alliances they have in order to obtain wives, including striking financial and reciprocal bargains with the fathers of daughters (this is the very common practice ofbrideprice). Once girls and young women become wives, older husbands (and brothers) will strive to “protect” their young wives from other males (to guarantee paternity of any offspring), and in the process dampen women’s freedoms and exacerbate inequality.

4. More Speculative Predictions. Did monogamy lead to long-term economic growth and greater democracy?
Dr. Henrich also predicted additional consequences of polygyny that he acknowledged were more speculative and could not be as thoroughly supported by empirical evidence.
One such prediction is that imposing monogamy may have the effect of increasing per capita GDP. 

Studies applying a theoretical economic model to the data from highly polygynous states showed that when monogamy is imposed “the fertility rate goes down, the age gap goes down, saving rates go up, bride prices disappear, and GDP per capita goes way up” (at 32). This model was based on the assumptions that men and women care about both having children and “consuming”, that men are capable of reproducing during much more of their life than women, and that men tend to prefer younger women. In this model, when a ban on polygyny prevents men from investing in obtaining further wives, they instead save and invest in production and consumption.

As noted earlier in the historical review of monogamy and polygamy, Dr. Henrichalso speculates that the spread of monogamy may have helped create the conditions for the emergence of democracy and political equality. Anthropological research demonstrates a strong statistical linkage between democratic institutions and monogamy. The theory is that imposed monogamy may eventually lead to democracy by dissipating the pool of unmarried men that rulers harness in wars of aggression, and by imposing a basic principle of equality among men; the king and the peasant become alike in only being able to have one wife.

Via - Igrooveradio

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