Polygamy (from Late Greek πολυγαμία, polygamía, "state of marriage to many spouses") involves marriage with more than one spouse. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, it is called polygyny. When a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and wives, it can be called a group marriage. In contrast, monogamy is marriage consisting of only two parties. Like "monogamy", the term "polygamy" is often used in a de facto sense, applied regardless of whether the relationship is recognized by the state. In sociobiology and zoology, researchers use polygamy in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating.
- Household organization
- Serial monogamy
- Group marriage
- Celtic traditions
- Roman Catholic Church
- Latter Day Saint Movement
- International law
- United Kingdom
- United States
Polygamy is widely accepted among different societies worldwide. According to the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 societies noted, 588 had frequent polygyny, 453 had occasional polygyny, 186 were monogamous and 4 had polyandry.
Polygamy exists in three specific forms:
Polygamy is also common among some animals, such as the common fruit-fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
Polygyny is the practice wherein a man has more than one wife at the same time. The vast majority of polygamous marriages are polygynous. Polygyny is legally accepted in many Muslim majority countries and some countries with a sizeable Muslim minority; it is also accepted in some secular countries in varying degrees.
Anthropologist Jack Goody's comparative study of marriage around the world utilizing the Ethnographic Atlas demonstrated an historical correlation between the practice of extensive shifting horticulture and polygamy in the majority of sub-Saharan African societies. Drawing on the work of Ester Boserup, Goody notes that the sexual division of labour varies between the male-dominated intensive plough-agriculture common in Eurasia and the extensive shifting horticulture found in sub-Saharan Africa. In some of the sparsely populated regions where shifting cultivation takes place in Africa, women do much of the work. This favours polygamous marriages in which men sought to monopolize the production of women "who are valued both as workers and as child bearers". Goody however, observes that the correlation is imperfect and varied. He also discusses more male-dominated though relatively extensive farming systems such as those that exist in much of West Africa, in particular the West African savannah, where polygyny is desired more for the creation of sons, whose labor is valued.
Anthropologists Douglas R. White and Michael L. Burton discuss and support Jack Goody's observation regarding African male farming systems in "Causes of Polygyny: Ecology, Economy, Kinship, and Warfare" where these authors note: "Goody (1973) argues against the female contributions hypothesis. He notes Dorjahn's (1959) comparison of East and West Africa, showing higher female agricultural contributions in East Africa and higher polygyny rates in West Africa, especially in the West African savannah, where one finds especially high male agricultural contributions. Goody says, "The reasons behind polygyny are sexual and reproductive rather than economic and productive" (1973:189), arguing that men marry polygynously to maximize their fertility and to obtain large households containing many young dependent males."
Polygynous marriages can be distinguished between sororal polygyny, in which the co-wives are sisters, and non-sororal, where the co-wives are not related. For men, the benefits of polygyny are that it allows them to have more children, may provide them with more productive workers (where workers are family), and allows them to establish politically useful ties with a greater number of kin groups. Senior wives can benefit as well when their work load is lightened by the addition of junior wives to the family. Wives', especially senior wives', status in the community can be increased by the addition of other wives, who add to the family's prosperity or are a sign of conspicuous consumption (much like a large house, domestic help, or expensive vacations would be in suburban America). For such reasons, senior wives sometimes work hard or contribute from their own resources to enable their husbands to accumulate the bride price for a second wife.
Polygyny may also result from the practice of levirate marriage. In such cases, the deceased man's heir may inherit his assets and wife; or, more usually, his brothers may marry the widow. This provides support for the widow and her children (usually also members of the brothers' kin group) and maintains the tie between the husband and wives' kin groups. The sororate is like the levirate, in that a widower must marry the sister of his dead wife. The wife's family, in other words, must provide a replacement for her thus maintaining the ties between them. Both levirate and sororate may result in a man having multiple wives.
In monogamous societies, wealthy and powerful men established enduring relationships with, and established separate household for, multiple female partners, aside from their legitimate wives; a practice that was accepted in Imperial China up until the Qing Dynasty. This is a form of de facto polygyny that is referred to as concubinage.
Marriage is the moment at which a new household is formed, but different arrangements may occur depending upon the type of marriage and some polygamous marriages do not result in the formation of a single household. In many polygynous marriages the husband's wives may live in separate households often at a great distance. They can thus be described as a "series of linked nuclear families with a 'father' in common".
Polyandry is the practice wherein a woman has more than one husband at the same time. Polyandry is much less popular than polygyny and is illegal in virtually every state in the world. It occurs only in remote communities.
Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources, as it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival. It is a rare form of marriage that exists not only among poor families, but also the elite. For example, in the Himalayan Mountains polyandry is related to the scarcity of land; the marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows family land to remain intact and undivided. If every brother married separately and had children, family land would be split into unsustainable small plots. In Europe, this was prevented through the social practice of impartible inheritance (the disinheriting of most siblings, many of whom went on to become celibate monks and priests).
Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadic Tibetans in Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India, in which two or more brothers are married to the same wife. It is most common in societies marked by high male mortality. It is associated with partible paternity, the cultural belief that a child can have more than one father.
Non-fraternal polyandry occurs when the wives' husbands are unrelated, as among the Nayar tribe of India. It happens sparsely among tribes in separate worldwide locations. In this case, a woman undergoes a ritual marriage before puberty, and he is acknowledged as the father of all her children. She, however, may never cohabit with him, taking multiple lovers instead; these men must acknowledge the paternity of their children (and hence demonstrate that no caste prohibitions have been breached) by paying the midwife. The women remain in their maternal home, living with their brothers, and property is passed matrilineally. A similar form of matrilineal, de facto polyandry can be found in the institution of walking marriage among the Mosuo tribe of China.
Serial monogamy refers to remarriage after death of a spouse from a monogamous marriage or divorce, i.e. multiple marriages but only one legal spouse at a time (a series of monogamous relationships).
According to Danish scholar Miriam K. Zeitzen, anthropologists treat serial monogamy, in which divorce and remarriage occur, as a form of polygamy as it also can establish a series of households that may continue to be tied by shared paternity and shared income. As such, they are similar to the household formations created through divorce and serial monogamy.
Many societies considered monogamous allow divorce without partner consent. In many Western countries divorce rates roughly approach 50%. Those who remarry do so on average 3 times. Divorce and remarriage can thus result in serial monogamy. Serial monogamy creates a new kind of relative, the "ex-". The "ex-wife", for example, can remain an active part of her "ex-husband's" life, as they may be tied together by legally or informally mandated economic support, that can last for years, including by alimony, child support, and joint custody. Bob Simpson notes that in the British case, it creates an "extended family", that is, a number of households tied together in this way, including mobile children, noting that Britons may have ex‑wives or ex‑brothers‑in‑law, but not an ex‑child. According to him, these "unclear families" do not fit the mould of the monogamous nuclear family.
Group marriage is a marriage wherein the family unit consists of more than two partners, any of whom share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. Group marriage is a form of non-monogamy and polyamory.
The Rig Veda mentions that during the Vedic period, a man could have more than one wife. The practice is attested in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Dharmashastras permit a man to marry women of lower castes provided that the first wife was of equal caste. Despite its existence, it was most usually practiced by men of higher castes and higher status. Common people were only allowed a second marriage if the first wife could not bear a son.
According to Vishnu Smriti, the number of wives is linked to the caste system:
This linkage of the number of permitted wives to the caste system is also supported by Baudhayana Dharmasutra and Paraskara Grihyasutra.
The Apastamba Dharmasutra and Manusmriti allow a second wife if the first one is unable to discharge her religious duties or is unable to bear a son.
For a Brahmana, only one wife could rank as the chief consort who performed the religious rites (dharma-patni) along with the husband. The chief consort had to be of an equal caste. If a man married several women from the same caste, then eldest wife is the chief consort. Hindu kings commonly had more than one wife and are regularly attributed four wives by the scriptures. They were: Mahisi who was the chief consort, Parivrkti who had no son, Vaivata who is considered the favorite wife and the Palagali who was the daughter of the last of the court officials.
The other practice though not well documented is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man. Draupadi in the epic Mahabharat had five husbands: the Pandavas.
Traditional Hindu law allowed polygamy if the first wife could not bear a son.
The Hindu Marriage Act was enacted in 1955 by the Indian Parliament and made polygamy illegal for everyone in India except for Muslims. Prior to 1955, polygamy was permitted for Hindus. Marriage laws in India are dependent upon the religion of the parties in question.
In Buddhism, marriage is not a sacrament. It is purely a secular affair and the monks do not participate in it, though in some sects priests and monks do marry. Hence it receives no religious sanction. Forms of marriage consequently vary from country to country. It is said in the Parabhava Sutta that "a man who is not satisfied with one woman and seeks out other women is on the path to decline". Other fragments in the Buddhist scripture can be found that seem to treat polygamy unfavorably, leading some authors to conclude that Buddhism generally does not approve of it or alternatively that it is a tolerated, but subordinate marital model.
Until 2010, polygyny was legally recognized in Thailand. In Myanmar, polygyny was also frequent. In Sri Lanka, polyandry was practiced (though not widespread) until recent times. When the Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese, the concubines of others were added to the list of inappropriate partners. Polyandry in Tibet as well was common traditionally, as was polygyny, and having several wives or husbands was never regarded as having sex with inappropriate partners. Tibet is home to the largest and most flourishing polyandrous community in the world today. Most typically, fraternal polyandry is practiced, but sometimes father and son have a common wife, which is a unique family structure in the world. Other forms of marriage are also present, like group marriage and monogamous marriage. Polyandry (especially fraternal polyandry) is also common among Buddhists in Bhutan, Ladakh, and other parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Some pre-Christian Celtic pagans were known to practice polygamy, although the Celtic peoples wavered between it, monogamy and polyandry depending on the time period and area. In some areas this continued even after Christianisation began, for instance the Brehon Laws of Gaelic Ireland explicitly allowed for polygamy, especially amongst the noble class. Some modern Celtic pagan religions accept the practice of polygamy to varying degrees, though how widespread the practice is within these religions is unknown.
The Torah contains a few specific regulations that apply to polygamy, such as Exodus 21:10: "If he take another wife for himself; her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish". Deut 21:15–17, states that a man must award the inheritance due to a first-born son to the son who was actually born first, even if he hates that son's mother and likes another wife more; and Deut 17:17 states that the king shall not have too many wives.
The Torah may distinguish concubines and "sub-standard" wives with the prefix "to" (e.g., lit. "took to wives"). Despite these nuances to the biblical perspective on polygamy, many important figures had more than one wife, such as in the instances of Esau (Gen 26:34; 28:6-9), Jacob (Gen 29:15-28), Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-8), David (1 Samuel 25:39-44; 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 5:13-16), and Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3).
Multiple marriage was considered a realistic alternative in the case of famine, widowhood, or female infertility like in the practice of levirate marriage, wherein a man was required to marry and support his deceased brother's widow, as mandated by Deuteronomy 25:5–10. Despite its prevalence in the Hebrew Bible, scholars do not believe that polygyny was commonly practiced in the biblical era because it required a significant amount of wealth. Michael Coogan, in contrast, states that "Polygyny continued to be practised well into the biblical period, and it is attested among Jews as late as the second century CE".
The monogamy of the Roman Empire was the cause of two explanatory notes in the writings of Josephus describing how the polygamous marriages of Herod the Great were permitted under Jewish custom.
The Rabbinical era that began with the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE saw a continuation of some degree of legal acceptance for polygamy. In the Babylonian Talmud (BT), Kiddushin 7a, its states, "Raba said: [If a man declares,] 'Be thou betrothed to half of me,' she is betrothed: 'half of thee be betrothed to me,' she is not betrothed." The BT during a discussion of Levirate marriage in Yevamot 65a appears to repeat the precedent found in Exodus 21:10: "Raba said: a man may marry wives in addition to the first wife; provided only that he possesses the means to maintain them". The Jewish Codices began a process of restricting polygamy in Judaism.
Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah maintained that polygamous unions were permissible from a legal point of view, which was contrary to his personal opinion. The Mishneh Torah, while maintaining the right to multiple spouses, and the requirement to provide fully for each as indicated in previously cited sources, went further: "He may not, however, compel his wives to live in the same courtyard. Instead, each one is entitled to her own household".
The Shulchan Aruch, builds on all of the previous works by adding further nuances: "...but in any event, our sages have advised well not to marry more than four wives, in order that he can meet their conjugal needs at least once a month. And in a place where it is customary to marry only one wife, he is not permitted to take another wife on top of his present wife." As can be seen, while the tradition of the Rabbinic period began with providing legal definition for the practice of polygamy (although this does not indicate the frequency with which polygamy in fact occurred) that corresponded to precedents in the tanakh, by the time of the Codices the Rabbis had greatly reduced or eliminated sanction of the practice.
Most notable in the Rabbinic period on the issue of polygamy, though more specifically for Ashkenazi Jews, was the synod of Rabbeinu Gershom. About 1000 CE he called a synod which decided the following particulars: (1) prohibition of polygamy; (2) necessity of obtaining the consent of both parties to a divorce; (3) modification of the rules concerning those who became apostates under compulsion; (4) prohibition against opening correspondence addressed to another.
In the modern day, polygamy is almost nonexistent in Rabbinic Judaism. Ashkenazi Jews have continued to follow Rabbenu Gershom's ban since the 11th century. Some Mizrahi Jewish communities (particularly Yemenite Jews and Persian Jews) discontinued polygyny more recently, after they immigrated to countries where it was forbidden or illegal. Israel prohibits polygamy by law. In practice, however, the law is loosely enforced, primarily to avoid interference with Bedouin culture, where polygyny is practiced. Pre-existing polygynous unions among Jews from Arab countries (or other countries where the practice was not prohibited by their tradition and was not illegal) are not subject to this Israeli law. But Mizrahi Jews are not permitted to enter into new polygamous marriages in Israel. However polygamy may still occur in non-European Jewish communities that exist in countries where it is not forbidden, such as Jewish communities in Yemen and the Arab world.
Among Karaite Jews, who do not adhere to Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah, polygamy is almost non-existent today. Like other Jews, Karaites interpret Leviticus 18:18 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if his first wife gives her consent (Keter Torah on Leviticus, pp. 96–97) and Karaites interpret Exodus 21:10 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if he is capable of maintaining the same level of marital duties due to his first wife; the marital duties are 1) food, 2) clothing, and 3) sexual gratification. Because of these two biblical limitations and because most countries outlaw it, polygamy is considered highly impractical, and there are only a few known cases of it among Karaite Jews today.
Israel has made polygamy illegal. Provisions were instituted to allow for existing polygamous families immigrating from countries where the practice was legal. Furthermore, former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef has come out in favor of legalizing polygamy and the practice of pilegesh (concubine) by the Israeli government.
Tzvi Zohar, a professor from the Bar-Ilan University, recently suggested that based on the opinions of leading halachic authorities, the concept of concubines may serve as a practical Halachic justification for premarital or non-marital cohabitation.
Polygamy is not forbidden in the Old Testament. Although the New Testament is largely silent on polygamy, some point to Jesus's repetition of the earlier scriptures, noting that a man and a wife "shall become one flesh". However, some look to Paul's writings to the Corinthians: "Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.'" Supporters of polygamy claim this indicates that the term refers to a physical, rather than spiritual, union.
Some Christian theologians argue that in Matthew 19:3-9 and referring to Genesis 2:24 Jesus explicitly states a man should have only one wife:
Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
The Bible states in the New Testament that polygamy should not be practiced by certain church leaders. 1 Timothy states that certain Church leaders should have but one wife: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach" (chapter 3, verse 2; see also verse 12 regarding deacons having only one wife). Similar counsel is repeated in the first chapter of the Epistle to Titus.
Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygyny as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" (or "The Confessional Advice" ), Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication", a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret, however, to avoid public scandal. Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Brück, Luther stated that he could not "forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture." ("Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis.")
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has often been a tension between the Christian insistence on monogamy and traditional polygamy. In some instances in recent times there have been moves for accommodation; in other instances, churches have resisted such moves strongly. African Independent Churches have sometimes referred to those parts of the Old Testament that describe polygamy in defending the practice.
Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church condemns polygamy; the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists it in paragraph 2387 under the head "Other offenses against the dignity of marriage" and states that it "is not in accord with the moral law." Also in paragraph 1645 under the head "The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love" states "The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to husband and wife in mutual and unreserved affection. Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive."
Saint Augustine saw a conflict with Old Testament polygamy. He refrained from judging the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygyny. On the contrary, he argued that the polygamy of the Fathers, which was tolerated by the Creator because of fertility, was a diversion from His original plan for human marriage. Augustine wrote: That the good purpose of marriage, however, is better promoted by one husband with one wife, than by a husband with several wives, is shown plainly enough by the very first union of a married pair, which was made by the Divine Being Himself.
Augustine taught that the reason patriarchs had many wives was not because of fornication, but because they wanted more children. He supported his premise by showing that their marriages, in which husband was the head, were arranged according to the rules of good management: those who are in command (quae principantur) in their society were always singular, while subordinates (subiecta) were multiple. He gave two examples of such relationships: dominus-servus - master-servant (in older translation: slave) and God-soul. The Bible often equates worshiping multiple gods, i.e. idolatry to fornication. Augustine relates to that: On this account there is no True God of souls, save One: but one soul by means of many false gods may commit fornication, but not be made fruitful.
As tribal populations grew, fertility was no longer a valid justification of polygamy: it "was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce (utrum et nunc fas sit, non temere dixerim). For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bear children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful."
Augustine saw marriage as a non-sacrament-friendly covenant between one man and one woman, which may not be broken. It was the Creator who established monogamy: Therefore, the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Such marriage was confirmed by the Saviour in the Gospel of Matthew (Mat 19:9) and by His presence at the wedding in Cana (John 2:2). In the Church—the City of God—marriage is a sacrament and may not and cannot be dissolved as long as the spouses live: But a marriage once for all entered upon in the City of our God, where, even from the first union of the two, the man and the woman, marriage bears a certain sacramental character, can in no way be dissolved but by the death of one of them.. In chapter 7, Augustine pointed out that the Roman Empire forbad polygamy, even if the reason of fertility would support it: For it is in a man's power to put away a wife that is barren, and marry one of whom to have children. And yet it is not allowed; and now indeed in our times, and after the usage of Rome (nostris quidem iam temporibus ac more Romano), neither to marry in addition, so as to have more than one wife living. Further on he notices that the Church's attitude goes much further than the secular law regarding monogamy: It forbids remarrying, considering such to be a form of fornication: And yet, save in the City of our God, in His Holy Mount, the case is not such with the wife. But, that the laws of the Gentiles are otherwise, who is there that knows not .
In modern times a minority of Roman Catholic theologians have argued that polygamy, though not ideal, can be a legitimate form of Christian marriage in certain regions, in particular Africa. The Roman Catholic Church teaches in its Catechism that
"polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God that was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive."
The illegality of polygamy in certain areas creates, according to certain Bible passages, additional arguments against it. Paul the Apostle writes "submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience" (Romans 13:5), for "the authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1) St Peter concurs when he says to "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13,14) Pro-polygamists argue that, as long as polygamists currently do not obtain legal marriage licenses nor seek "common law marriage status" for additional spouses, no enforced laws are being broken any more than when monogamous couples similarly co-habitate without a marriage license.
Latter Day Saint Movement
The history of Mormonism and polygamy (specifically polygyny) began with Joseph Smith, who stated he received a revelation on 17 July 1831 that "plural marriage" should be practiced by some Mormon men who were specifically commanded to do so. This was later published in the Doctrine and Covenants by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Despite Smith's revelation, the 1835 edition of the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, written after the doctrine of plural marriage began to be practiced, publicly condemned polygamy. This scripture was used by John Taylor in 1850 to quash Mormon polygamy rumors in Liverpool, England. Polygamy was made illegal in the state of Illinois during the 1839–44 Nauvoo era when several top Mormon leaders, including Smith, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball took multiple wives. Mormon elders who publicly taught that all men were commanded to enter plural marriage were subject to harsh discipline. On 7 June 1844 the Nauvoo Expositor criticized Smith for plural marriage.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)
After Joseph Smith was killed by a mob on 27 June 1844, the main body of Latter Day Saints left Nauvoo and followed Brigham Young to Utah where the practice of plural marriage continued. In 1852, Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS Church, publicly acknowledged the practice of plural marriage through a sermon he gave. Additional sermons by top Mormon leaders on the virtues of polygamy followed. Controversy followed when polygamy became a social cause, writers began to publish works condemning polygamy. The key plank of the Republican Party's 1856 platform was "to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery". In 1862, Congress issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act which clarified that the practice of polygamy was illegal in all US territories. The LDS Church believed that their religiously based practice of plural marriage was protected by the United States Constitution, however, the unanimous 1878 Supreme Court decision Reynolds v. United States declared that polygamy was not protected by the Constitution, based on the longstanding legal principle that "laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices."
Increasingly harsh anti-polygamy legislation in the US led some Mormons to emigrate to Canada and Mexico. In 1890, LDS Church president Wilford Woodruff issued a public declaration (the Manifesto) announcing that the LDS Church had discontinued new plural marriages. Anti-Mormon sentiment waned, as did opposition to statehood for Utah. The Smoot Hearings in 1904, which documented that the LDS Church was still practicing polygamy spurred the LDS Church to issue a Second Manifesto again claiming that it had ceased performing new plural marriages. By 1910 the LDS Church excommunicated those who entered into, or performed, new plural marriages. Even so, many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s.
Enforcement of the 1890 Manifesto caused various splinter groups to leave the LDS Church in order to continue the practice of plural marriage. Polygamy among these groups persists today in Utah and neighboring states as well as in the spin-off colonies. Polygamist churches of Mormon origin are often referred to as "Mormon fundamentalist" even though they are not a part of the LDS Church. Such fundamentalists often use a purported 1886 revelation to John Taylor as the basis for their authority to continue the practice of plural marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune stated in 2005 there were as many as 37,000 fundamentalists with less than half of them living in polygamous households.
On 13 December 2013, US Federal Judge Clark Waddoups ruled in Brown v. Buhman that the portions of Utah's anti-polygamy laws which prohibit multiple cohabitation were unconstitutional, but also allowed Utah to maintain its ban on multiple marriage licenses. Unlawful cohabitation, where prosecutors did not need to prove that a marriage ceremony had taken place (only that a couple had lived together), had been the primary tool used to prosecute polygamy in Utah since the 1882 Edmunds Act.
The Council of Friends (also known as the Woolley Group and the Priesthood Council) was one of the original expressions of Mormon fundamentalism, having its origins in the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley, a dairy farmer excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1924. Several Mormon fundamentalist groups claim lineage through the Council of Friends, including but not limited to, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church), the Apostolic United Brethren, the Centennial Park group, the Latter Day Church of Christ, and the Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Community of Christ, known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church) prior to 2001, has never sanctioned polygamy since its foundation in 1860. Joseph Smith III, the first Prophet-President of the RLDS Church following the Reorganized of the church, was an ardent opponent of the practice of plural marriage throughout his life. For most of his career, Smith denied that his father had been involved in the practice and insisted that it had originated with Brigham Young. Smith served many missions to the western United States where he met with and interviewed associates and women claiming to be widows of his father, who attempted to present him with evidence to the contrary. Smith typically responded to such accusations by saying that he was "not positive nor sure that [his father] was innocent", and that if, indeed, the elder Smith had been involved, it was still a false practice. However, many members of the Community of Christ, and some of the groups that were formerly associated with it are not convinced that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage, and feel that the evidence that he did is flawed.
Under Islamic marital jurisprudence, Muslim men are allowed to practice polygyny, that is, they can have more than one wife at the same time, up to a total of four. Polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, is not permitted.
Based on verse 30:21 of Quran the ideal relationship is the comfort that a couple find in each other's embrace:
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.
The polygyny that is allowed in the Koran is for special situations, however it advises monogamy if a man fears he can't deal justly with them. This is based on verse 4:3 of Quran which says:
If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or one that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
There are strict requirements to marrying more than one woman, as the man must treat them equally financially and in terms of support given to each wife, according to Islamic law.
Muslim women aren't allowed to marry more than one husband at once. However, in the case of a divorce or their husbands' death they can remarry after the completion of Iddah, as divorce is legal in Islamic law. A non-Muslim woman who flees from her non-Muslim husband and accepts Islam has the option to remarry without divorce from her previous husband, as her marriage with non-Muslim husband is Islamically dissolved on her fleeing. A non-Muslim woman captured during war by Muslims, can also remarry, as her marriage with her non-Muslim husband is Islamically dissolved at capture by Muslim soldiers. This permission is given to such women in verse 4:24 of Quran. The verse also emphasizes on transparency, mutual agreement and financial compensation as prerequisites for matrimonial relationship as opposed to prostitution; it says:
Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.
Muhammad was monogamously married to Khadija, his first wife, for 25 years, until she died. After her death, he married multiple women, mostly widows, for social and political reasons. He had a total of nine wives, but not all at the same time, depending on the sources in his lifetime. The Qur'an does not give preference in marrying more than one wife. One reason cited for polygyny is that it allows a man to give financial protection to multiple women, who might otherwise not have any support (e.g. widows). However, the wife can set a condition, in then marriage contract, that the husband cannot marry another woman during their marriage. In such a case, the husband cannot marry another woman as long as he is married to his wife. According to traditional Islamic law, each of those wives keeps their property and assets separate; and are paid mahar and maintenance separately by their husband. Usually the wives have little to no contact with each other and lead separate, individual lives in their own houses, and sometimes in different cities, though they all share the same husband.
In most Muslim-majority countries, polygyny is legal with Kuwait being the only one where no restrictions are imposed on it. The practice is illegal in Muslim-majority Turkey, Tunisia, Albania, Kosovo and Central Asian countries.
Countries that allow polygyny typically also require a man to obtain permission from his previous wives before marrying another, and require the man to prove that he can financially support multiple wives. In Malaysia and Morocco, a man must justify taking an additional wife at a court hearing before he is allowed to do so. In Sudan, the government encouraged polygyny in 2001 to increase the population.
In 2000, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reported that polygamy violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), citing concerns that the lack of "equality of treatment with regard to the right to marry" meant that polygamy, restricted to polygyny in practice, violates the dignity of women and should be outlawed. Specifically, the reports to UN Committees have noted violations of the ICCPR due to these inequalities and reports to the General Assembly of the UN have recommended it be outlawed. Many Muslim states are not signatories of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia, Brunei, Oman, and South Sudan; therefore the UN treaty doesn't apply to these countries.
Bigamy is illegal in the United Kingdom, unlike polygamy, which is not mentioned as a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. In a written answer to the House of Commons, In Great Britain, polygamy is only recognised as valid in law in circumstances where the marriage ceremony has been performed in a country whose laws permit polygamy and the parties to the marriage were domiciled there at the time. In addition, immigration rules have generally prevented the formation of polygamous households in this country since 1988.
The 2010 Government in the UK decided that Universal Credit (UC), which replaces means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age people and will not be completely introduced until 2021, will not recognise polygamous marriages. A House of Commons Briefing Paper states Treating second and subsequent partners in polygamous relationships as separate claimants could in some situations mean that polygamous households receive more under Universal Credit than they do under the current rules for means-tested benefits and tax credits. This is because, as explained above, the amounts which may be paid in respect of additional spouses are lower than those which generally apply to single claimants. There is currently no official statistics data on cohabiting polygamous couples who have arranged marriage in religious ceremonies.
Polygamy is currently illegal in the United States. On 13 December 2013, a federal judge, spurred by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, struck down the parts of Utah's bigamy law that criminalized cohabitation, while also acknowledging that the state may still enforce bans on having multiple marriage licenses.
Authors such as Alyssa Rower and Samantha Slark argue that there is a case for legalizing polygamy on the basis of regulation and monitoring of the practice, legally protecting the polygamous partners and allowing them to join mainstream society instead of forcing them to hide from it when any public situation arises.
In an October 2004 op-ed for USA Today, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley argued that, as a simple matter of equal treatment under law, polygamy ought to be legal. Acknowledging that underage girls are sometimes coerced into polygamous marriages, Turley replied that "banning polygamy is no more a solution to child abuse than banning marriage would be a solution to spousal abuse."
Stanley Kurtz, a Conservative fellow at the Hudson Institute rejects the decriminalization and legalization of polygamy. He stated: "Marriage, as its ultramodern critics would like to say, is indeed about choosing one's partner, and about freedom in a society that values freedom. But that's not the only thing it is about. As the Supreme Court justices who unanimously decided Reynolds in 1878 understood, marriage is also about sustaining the conditions in which freedom can thrive. Polygamy in all its forms is a recipe for social structures that inhibit and ultimately undermine social freedom and democracy. A hard-won lesson of Western history is that genuine democratic self-rule begins at the hearth of the monogamous family."
In January 2015, Pastor Neil Patrick Carrick of Detroit, Michigan brought a case (Carrick v. Snyder) against the State of Michigan that the state's ban of polygamy violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.