Polygamy Hot Button Issue in Malaysia

Polygamy Hot Button Issue in Malaysia


(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

The judge's ruling overturning California's Proposition 8 once again brings the marriage issue to the forefront of politics in an election year.

While Americans debate the pros and cons of same sex marriage, the citizens of Malaysia-- often considered a moderate Muslim country are debating another kind of marriage: multiple ones. Under Islam, men are allowed to marry more than one woman (up to four) but a new report shows the detrimental effect of polygamy on Malaysian women and children.

A study released last month by the Malaysian women's advocacy group Sisters in Islam (SIS) found that 44 percent of first wives are forced to find additional work when their husbands marry a second woman. Polygamy stresses household budgets in a country where the average breadwinner earns only about $1,000 per month. 

According to SIS senior researcher Adibah Mohd Jodi, "The husband's contribution to his first wife's family decreased after his second marriage."

No surprise here. I saw this first hand during a recent trip to a Middle Eastern country as I sat in the living room of a warm and welcoming middle-aged Bedouin woman who sadly explained that her biggest problem in life was her husband's younger, prettier wife. "He's spending all his time and money on her while ignoring me and the children."

Malaysia children realize the harm this antiquated practice is having on their families. SIS found they overwhelmingly oppose the practice of polygamy. At least 90 percent of 523 children interviewed insisted they would not start polygamous households when they grew up.

At the same time, the Malaysian state of Malacca and an Islamic court have decided that girls younger than 16 and boys younger than 18 may marry.

Imagine the detrimental affect on families when say, a 15-year-old Muslim male marries several young girls perhaps ages 13, 14 and 15 and has children with each of them. Or imagine the harm caused by this law when 50 or 60-year-old pedophiles marry and abuse 10-year old girls. 

And we thought America had problems dealing with the gay marriage issue!

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