The Polygamy debate last year produced results. Thanks to Crikey, the ABC, Seven’s Sunrise, 2UE and a number of online publishers, the federal attorney general introduced laws to give some rights to spurned mistresses.

I feel honoured and privileged to have been chosen to make my humble contribution to that debate. I am delighted that I have offered a service to women in Australia.

This year, the Sydney Opera House and the St. James Ethics Centre got together and decided to host the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.  I was invited to resuscitate my argument from last year. Again, I saw this as an opportunity to serve the women of Australia.

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I did not create the debate, it came to me, I do not like generating controversy, however, if it comes to me, I will address it forthrightly with outright conviction in the wisdom of my Creator Whose work I am honoured to do. Some unjustly view my faith in the wisdom of God as controversial.

We are still some way from finished with the debate on plural unions. Whilst we managed to get some rights for the mistress last year, we still need to take away the stigma from her and all the women who exceed the gender ratio. This ratio is not only determined by raw population numbers, one must also deduct from the male population the disproportionate number of male prisoners and any disproportionate number of males to females who pursue same gender unions.

Sometimes, it breaks my heart to be proved right as was the case with the British headlines yesterday about a successful doctor allegedly poisoning his mistress to bring about an abortion. Part of my argument to decriminalise polygamy includes the right of the second woman to bear children and the right of the child of such a relationship to live life without stigma. The second woman should not be treated as a mistress, she should be able to expect to be treated as a proper partner or spouse.

Yes, the Justinian facade that I previously mentioned has also influenced non-Greco/Roman societies with more countries frowning on the open plural relationships.

In modern society monogamy is regularly breached. Clandestine adultery is widespread. Therefore, decriminalising polygamy and removing its social social stigma will further guarantee the rights of women.

In this debate, some have theorised that in order to make such laws equal, they would like me to recognise polyandry.

The reality of decriminalising plural unions would produce a law that is non-discriminatory by nature. The secular system would be able to acknowledge both forms of polygamy. It would remain then up to the various religious traditions to decide which to bless for their own adherents. Plural secular marriages can go in whichever direction they choose, those people who do not follow my religious tradition are not obliged to live by its rules.

To dissuade from the eventuality of polyandry though, I offer the following rationalisations:

  1. The gender ratio pool (excluding societies that practice the horrors of gender-selective ab-rtion). Without even having to point at statistics, it is elementary knowledge that a disproportionate number of women are exploited through pr-stitution and p-rnography. Allowing these women the option to enter an open rather than a secret union with an attached man will save many of them from this form of exploitation.
  2. Relationships are not just about intimacy, they carry emotions as well as various forms of support. We see the impost of the commitment more clearly if we temporarily put the brief climactic conclusion aside. When we do so, it becomes salient that polygyny creates more responsibilities for the male and gives advantage to the woman.
  3. The paternity is more clearly discernable.

The question of support is easily addressed in such situation. As a general rule that can be fine-tuned, the non polygamous person in the relationship will have rights similar to those that exist today whereas the polygamist is limited to a share of what he or she had brought into the union. The polygamous person in a polygynous union is the male; it is the female in a polyandrous union. This suggestion would eliminate or reduce the risk of prospecting.

The polygamy debate that comes to me from time to time is another opportunity to promote honesty, openness and frank discussion in relationships. Without it, all we do is perpetuate suspicions and the ignorance is bliss myth that everything is hunky-dory.

Read Shakira Hussein’s article “Muslims moan: Why Keysar Trad? Why?” from yesterday’s Crikey here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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