Bigamy: An issue of one too many

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Yusuf

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The Law Commission recently recommended a good way to prevent a married Hindu man from taking another wife: Deeming such a marriage illegal even

if he converted to Islam before he wed a second time.

That Law Commission report, 'Preventing Bigamy via Conversion to Islam', essentially highlighted an important and little-known truth - namely that more Hindus than Muslims commit bigamy.

This has been true for more than a quarter of a century. In 1974, a government survey found Muslims to account for 5.6% of all bigamous marriages and upper-caste Hindus accounting for 5.8%. The difference may appear to be small but it is big, in real terms. The 1971 census records 45.3 crore Hindus and six crore Muslims. Allowing for women and children to make up 65% of each group, as many as one crore Hindu men had more than one wife in 1971, compared to 12 lakh Muslim men.

The trend continues, says sociologist Asghar Ali Engineer, head of Mumbai's Institute of Islamic Studies. "The survey was conducted on a large sample in all parts of India and the report wasn't made public. Further, polygamy was higher in South India than in the north, and more so among rich and middle-class Hindus than the poorer sections."

Go back still further – to 1961 – and the census records polygamy to be highest among adivasis, Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus, with Muslims right at the end. Engineer says the law matters only up to a point. "With both survey results coming out after the Hindu Marriage Act was passed in 1955, it shows that bigamy is basically a problem of a male-dominant culture than religion."

Bigamy disadvantages Hindu women more than Muslim, says Chandigarh sociologist Nirmal Sharma. This, because a Hindu man will desert his lawfully wedded wife to live with another, while the multiple wives of Muslim men are entitled to equal legal and social rights. "Closet bigamy in Hindus is worse than open polygamy among Muslims," he says.

Fiza alias Anuradha Bali, who married Haryana's deputy CM after the pair converted to Islam, says, "Our laws were far more liberal in ancient times. Most kings and many of our mythological figures had more than one wife." Though Chand has converted back to Hinduism, Fiza insists she remains his "customary wife while the first one remains the legally-wedded one. There is no way to get out of a dual marriage in spite of a legal ban."

Supreme Court lawyer Praveen Agarwal cautions that Hindu bigamists often go scot free because "the courts can do little until there's a formal complaint." And this is not always possible because in many cases, the two wives don't even know of each other's existence, says Agarwal. He adds that it is relatively easy for a Hindu man to remarry because temples don't hold records. "However, if the matter goes to court, the second marriage is declared null and void."

Take the case of K Suryanarayana, the Indian engineer killed in Afghanistan, who left behind a second wife and daughter. Though she laid claim to compensation from the government, the court ruled in favour of the first wife.

Agarwal suggests that stringent and time-consuming Hindu divorce may force many men to resort to bigamy. "Instead of going in for long-drawn-out and financially debilitating divorce procedures, men simply desert the first wife and marry again."

Engineer says that bigamy is not as rampant among Muslims as believed. The Quran only offers conditional permission for a man to take four wives: in times of war or a crisis that sees women outnumber men. "The 2001 census found 935 females for every 1000 males in India. Among Muslims, it was 930: 1000. So it would be difficult to find even one wife for every man," he says. Engineer says polygamy will never cease to exist. Perhaps it's better to regulate it, he says.
Bigamy: An issue of one too many - View From Venus - Sunday TOI - NEWS - The Times of India

interesting article this. The polygamy issue is usually the one cited by many to come up with the uniform civil code.
Come to think of it, more % of Hindus take more than one wife than Muslims. Many more converting to just take another wife.
Good thought about regulating bigamy through conversion and an eye opener of sorts this statistic.
 

natarajan

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its just human psychology as if it is legal we wont do and but if it against law then we will go to any extent to do it and also why we need such concession for a particular group in a secular nation? is any secular or normal nation have this kind of separate laws ? (dont show islamic nation as they have only one law that is shariat)
 

prahladh

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more than one wife!!! who said India is poor. Seriously, one wife is big responsibility how do they put up with wives and children. I hope these guys have enough financial backup.
 

johnee

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Either the constitution must sanction everyone to have as many spouses as one may wish(as many husbands or as many wives) or simply make it illegal for anyone to practise polygamy or polyandry(irrespective of religion, region, caste, colour, creed).

Just have one law: Either allow it or not. But no hypocrisy of making it illegal for one particular section while allowing it for another section of society.
 

Yusuf

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The percentage of polygamy is small and the community whose religion sanctions more than one wife has the lesser percentage of people doing thst than the one that doesn't allow. So regardless of legal or illegal, it's happening. A five odd percentage is not a big percentage anyways.
 

natarajan

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there is one huge disadvantage has all wives of this section has right on properties and it is nightmare for people who buy property from this people as in future some one may come and say am fifth wife and i have right on this property then not only your property is lost but also money(you wont get single penny)
ps:my grandmother bought one house and after some time some one came saying that she has right on property and grabbed that house with assistance of law so its a growing danger as if they do purposefully by selling properties and grabbing after sometime using this law which favors them
 

ahmedsid

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[mod] This has been discussed much, and wont go anywhere but end in some trolls slugging it out [/mod]
 
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