26 Jan 2011

Polygamy expert tells court in constitutional case that it reduces women's freedom and equality and leads to forced marriage

CBC News - Canada December 7, 2010

Polygamy leads to forced marriage: prof

The same supply-and-demand forces that drive the economy ensure women are worse off in societies where polygamy is practised, a professor testified Tuesday at a landmark court case examining Canada's ban on multiple marriages.

Allowing men to have multiple wives inevitably leads to a reduced supply of women, increasing demand, said Shoshana Grossbard, an expert in the economics of marriage from San Diego State University.

But rather than making women more valuable in such communities, Grossbard said, the scarcity encourages men in polygamous societies to exert control over them to ensure they have access to the limited supply.

"In the cultures and societies worldwide that have embraced it, polygamy is associated with undesirable economic, societal, physical, psychological and emotional factors related especially to women's well-being," said Grossbard, whose research has primarily focused on polygamous cultures in Africa.

Grossbard was the latest academic to testify in B.C. Supreme Court in a reference case to determine whether Canada's polygamy law is consistent with the religious guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court will also hear from current and former residents of polygamous communities.

Bargaining power

She said there are fewer women available to men in societies that permit polygamy — even for monogamous men, because they are drawing from the same pool of women.

Since that scarcity could increase what she describes as the women's "bargaining power," men in such societies have an incentive to ensure they retain control over whom the women marry.

To that end, Grossbard said, polygamy is associated with teenage brides, arranged and forced marriages, payments to brides' fathers, little emphasis on "romantic" love and poor access to education or the workforce — all designed to restrict women's ability to choose whom they marry.

"The men in polygamous societies want these institutions to help them control women," Grossbard said.

Other unintended consequences of polygamy include jealousy among plural wives and psychological or health problems, she told the court.

While Grossbard acknowledged it's difficult to attribute any single issue to polygamy, the fact so many of these problems consistently appear in polygamous societies — and at much higher rates than in monogamous ones — suggests they are caused by polygamy.

"I conclude that polygamy actually causes some of these institutions to be created," she said.

"The fact that so many of them are present in cultures that also have polygamy, my conclusion is that men in polygamous societies will manipulate the social institutions in ways that will facilitate their control of women."

The court case was prompted by the failed prosecution last year of two leaders in the community of Bountiful, in southeastern B.C., which is home to members of the U.S.-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Grossbard said she hadn't researched Bountiful or other fundamentalist Mormon communities before she was asked to testify. However, she said it appears some of the problems associated with polygamy — including limiting women's ability to choose who they marry and social isolation — are also present in the B.C. community.

Affidavits can be broadcast

Earlier, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled that video affidavits filed with the court can be broadcast on TV and the internet. [see this article]

B.C. government lawyers videotaped interviews with 14 women and children who have lived in polygamous communities in Canada and the United States.

The Crown had asked the court to prevent news outlets from broadcasting the videos after one of the witnesses complained that part of her affidavit appeared on a news website.

But Bauman noted that witness Ruth Lane, who was once married to Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore, has already told her story in other media interviews, including on the internationally broadcast program "Dr. Phil."

"The media respondents are accurate when they submit that the complaining [witness's] concerns are apparently based on a whim — a wholly inadequate basis for the impeding the interests of the press and the public here," he said.

This article was found at:



The Toronto Star - December 7, 2010

Economic freedom reduced for women in polygamous marriages, says expert

by Petti Fong

VANCOUVER—Women are treated like commodities in polygamous societies and their economic freedoms are reduced.

That’s the opinion of economist Shoshana Grossbard who testified at B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday in a case to determine whether the country’s polygamy laws are constitutional.

Grossbard, who has studied the economic effects of polygamy in other countries, testified that there will be increased disparity between husbands and wives if Canada were to legalize polygamy.

“In the cultures and societies worldwide that have embraced it, polygamy is associated with undesirable economic, societal, physical and emotional factors related to women’s well-being,” Grossbard said Tuesday.

The natural economic consequence of polygamy should be increased market value for women, since multiple wives are highly desirable. But in these societies, husbands can simply divorce the wives they don’t want, so women don’t actually have control over their value.

Grossbard was a witness for the Christian Legal Fellowship, an organization that has legal standing in the reference case that has involved nearly a dozen intervenors and organizations. The attorneys general for B.C. and Canada are in court arguing that the 50-year-old polygamy law in the country is constitutionally valid, a finding it is seeking from the court in order to pursue possible litigation against the polygamous community in Bountiful, B.C.

There are nearly 800 believers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) living in the interior of B.C. in two separate factions under two feuding leaders, Winston Blackmore and James Oler. Among them, the two men have dozens of wives and dozens of children.

Grossbard testified that there is an increase in the number of polygamous marriages in western countries because of immigrants who are Muslim or from African countries and is practiced in many cultures and on most continents. She traced polygamy to other women and children issues including female circumcision, which makes it easier for men to control wives when they’re less able to experience sexual pleasure.

In polygamous relationships, women are more likely to be widowed because their husbands are considerably older, and children are more likely to have health problems and have less access to education, she said, Polygamist men tend to spend their money on having more children rather than investing in their existing children’s education, Grossbard testified.

Groups on the opposing side of provincial and federal governments include the FLDS, free speech organizations and a court-appointed amicus who is being funded by the provincial government to take the opposing view that the current law is a violation of religious freedom.

Under cross-examination by Tim Dixon, acting as an amicus, or friend of the court, Grossbard admitted that there is no proof that legalizing polygamy will increase the number of polygamists in Canada. She also testified that there is a potential for women to be harmed financially if the breadwinner in polygamous marriages, the husband, is jailed if Canada’s polygamy laws are enacted.

Beside Bountiful, there are known pockets of polygamists living in Quebec and Ontario but how many there are remains unclear because the communities are isolated.

Also in court Tuesday, the B.C. Supreme Court judge hearing the case ruled that the media is allowed to broadcast video affidavits taken from witnesses who have left polygamous communities.

One of those witnesses, Ruth Lane, the tenth wife of Blackmore, had sought to have the evidence barred from the Internet. In her testimony Lane, dressed in a pink tank top, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, is interviewed in her home in Hurricane, Utah. She had married Blackmore after he came to talk to the FLDS community in Colorado City, Arizona in 1994, one of three women the self-proclaimed bishop married in the span of two weeks.

One week before her marriage to Blackmore he had married two sisters from her community.

“He had a thing for sisters,” Lane said, smiling nostalgically. A year after marrying her, Blackmore married Lane’s sister.

The man Lane called “Wink” was “very charismatic” and younger than many of the church leaders. He was 40 when they married, 17 years older than her. She already had one child from an earlier relationship before eventually having six more kids. She left Bountiful to move back to the U.S. when Blackmore refused to “work on their relationship,” Lane said.

The case continues until January.

This article was found at:



CTV News - Canada December 7, 2010

Ex-Bountiful members speak out against polygamy

by CTV News staff

As a British Columbia judge considers whether polygamy is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, former members of polygamous communities say women suffer in households with multiple mothers.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman is hearing from experts, as well as video testimony from former residents of Bountiful, B.C., and other polygamous communities, as he considers Canada's current ban on multiple marriages.

While current residents of Bountiful say they live happy lives, some past residents are calling it a cult and allege that abuse was rampant.

Brenda Jenson, whose father helped found Bountiful, is one of more than a dozen former residents who are speaking out against the community in videotaped testimony.

"There was a lot of abuse sexually, there was a lot of abuse physically," Jenson said.

Jenson also told of regular beatings.

Bauman was tasked with overseeing the case after prosecutors in the province dropped polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore and James Oler, leaders of rival sects of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, itself a breakaway from the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than 100 years ago.

Police have investigated allegations of polygamy in Bountiful for years, but prosecutors have declined to lay charges over fears they wouldn't survive a Charter challenge.

Ruth Lane, who was once married to Blackmore, who is believed to have between 19 and 24 wives, including her sister, alleged that some of the girls married to the leaders were mere teenagers.

"He married a couple of 15-year-olds," Lane testified. "They can stretch it however they want. They were 15."

Kathleen Mackert testified that she was a victim of sexual abuse growing up in a similar community in the United States. Her brother, Howard, said women are treated as baby factories.

"One of my youngest sisters had 20 children and I'm not sure she's done yet," he said. "They just keep going until they can't anymore."

When the charges against Blackmore and Oler, who is alleged to have three wives, were dropped over how the province chose its prosecutors, B.C. referred the issue to the court.

Lawyers representing both the province and the federal government are arguing that the current law be upheld to protect the rights of women and children. A court-appointed lawyer is arguing the law violates Charter rights and should therefore be struck down.

Bauman must decide whether the polygamy law in Section 293 of the Criminal Code is consistent with the Charter, and whether polygamous relationships must involve a minor, or some form of abuse, before charges can be laid.

The hearings are expected to continue into January.

With a report from CTV's Rob Brown

This article was found at:


The Vancouver Sun - Canada December 9, 2010

Polygamy's many wives don't capture 'market value'

by Daphne Bramham | Vancouver Sun

Economist Shoshana Grossbard admits she was naive when she did her doctoral thesis on polygamy more than 30 years ago at the University of Chicago.

Then, she believed that a simple supply-and-demand analysis would explain the economics of polygamous societies.

Besides, she says, "I thought it was cool to say that polygamy might be advantageous to women and repeat what Gary Becker [her thesis adviser and Nobel laureate] has said."

Now, having written several books on the economics of marriage, Grossbard says, "I know better."

If the most basic economic rule is applied, she says women in polygamous societies would have power and value because virtually all polygamous societies are polygynous -- meaning that it's men who have multiple spouses.

Women of marriage age are a rare and highly desirable commodity and should have "increased market value" in economics speak. In practice, they should have their pick of marriage partners.

But they don't.

Over her years of study, Grossbard has found that far from women having increased value, invariably the male leaders in polygamous societies have institutionalized women into subservience.

It takes a number of guises, says the San Diego State University professor, who testified as an expert witness this week at the constitutional reference case, to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law.

Polygamous societies have a higher frequency of arranged marriages. It's not surprising, says Grossbard. Young women aren't likely to choose old men for husbands, plus men find young wives easier to control.

Of course, that increases the likelihood of early widowhood and financial hardship.

In societies where a bride price is paid, women don't "capture their increased market value." Instead, she says, potential husbands pay the fathers. No money goes to the bride.

Divorce tends to be easier in polygamous societies. The threat of it keeps women in line and it allows men to shed wives who are too old or noncompliant.

Child custody almost always is the right of the father.

Isolating women makes it more difficult for them to escape and makes them even more financially dependent on their husbands.

As beautiful as the harem in Grenada's Alhambra is, Grossbard says, "The whole institution is typical of polygamous societies."

There, eunuchs -- castrated men -- guard the wives.

But isolation doesn't necessarily mean a harem or purdah, the economist says. It's as easily done by limiting job opportunities and participation in the labour force, denying women education, locating communities in remote locations such as Bountiful, B.C. or basing the economy on jobs that are best done by men, such as logging, construction or heavy labour.

Other common features of polygamous societies include the playing down of romantic love and inculcating women with the belief that sex is for procreation, not pleasure.

In some African societies, she notes that female circumcision is prominent and used as a tool to curb women's sex drive and ease the pressure on the husband to satisfy all of his wives.

Grossbard also found established cultural practices aimed at alleviating some of the harms of polygamy.

Islam restricts the number of wives to four to limit competition among men for women and limit competition among wives for their husband's attention.

Among the Kanuris of Nigeria, where Grossbard's research has focused, husbands rotate among the wives on a fixed schedule.

In other societies, wives are given separate homes. And in many, men marry sisters, believing they may be better able to get along.

Far from polygamy being beneficial to women, Grossbard has come to realize that polygamy is anathema to women's economic, social and emotional well-being.

And if Canada were to decriminalize polygamy and become the only developed nation to do so, polygamy will almost inevitably become more prevalent.

Grossbard can't prove it. But the economist says it only makes sense that wealthy, well-educated polygamists might prefer living in Canada to Nigeria or even South Africa (where the president himself has five wives).

And if there is an influx due to immigration or an increase due to inclination, Grossbard is certain there will be pressure to accept the kinds of cultural practices and institutions she has observed in other polygynous societies.

If that happens, she warns, "Women and men will have less ability to create loving relationships."

This article was found at: http://www.vancouversun.com/Polygamy+many+wives+capture+market+value/3949997/story.html


The Toronto Sun - December 6, 2010

Polygamy an issue for immigration officials

By Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is quietly reminding embassy and consular staff around the world that Canada doesn't accept immigrants who plan to practise polygamy here.

The reminder comes after documents obtained through access to information and supplied to QMI Agency showed that bureaucrats in outposts such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco have been forced to deal with the issue of polygamy as they assess immigration and temporary visitor applications.

“The status of being a polygamist is not grounds in and of itself to deny entry to an applicant seeking to come to Canada on a temporary basis,” reads a draft document developed by the national headquarters for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The document makes clear though that the practice of polygamy can't be allowed in Canada.

“If the applicant has practised in polygamous marriages or conjugal relationships in the past while in Canada, or states or gives cause for an immigration officer to believe that they will practise in polygamous marriages or conjugal relationships once in Canada, then the applicant is inadmissible,” the document states.

The document goes on to describe various scenarios that immigration officers may face and what should be done.

In one example, a second or third wife of a person in Canada attempts to enter the country as a student. That person would likely be deemed inadmissible, “based on the reasonable expectation that her

polygamous relationship would be practised in Canada.”

An official with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office told QMI that the department is doing its best to keep polygamy out of Canada.

“What the released e-mail shows is that our officials are vigilant,” said spokesman Alykhan Velshi. “The minister has asked the department to look into this to see if there are any loopholes, and if there are, to close them."

The issue of polygamy is currently before the courts in Canada as well. The Government of British Columbia has asked the courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws banning polygamy in Canada. In addition to the fundamentalist Mormon sect that practises polygamy in Bountiful, BC., there have been several media reports over the past few years about polygamy cropping up in Canada’s immigrant Muslim communities

This article was found at:



Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.

Affidavits from survivors and psychologist's testimony in constitutional case show abusive nature of polygamous lifestyle

Expert witness in constitutional case on polygamy claims Bountiful women freely choose their own religious oppression

Judge allows controversial expert witness to testify in Canadian polygamy case, no decision yet on publication of video affidavits

Pro-polygamy intervenor groups make opening statements as first week of Canadian constitutional case ends

FLDS lawyer in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy claims members freely consent to plural marriage, abuse survivors disagree

Lawyer appointed to argue for striking down Canada's anti-polygamy law in constitutional case makes opening arguments

Canadian constitutional case on polygamy begins with BC government's opening statement

Unique Canadian constitutional case on polygamy set to begin November 22, 2010

Timeline of events leading up to Canadian constitutional case on polygamy which is set to begin

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Mormon fundamentalist leader asks court to exclude evidence against him in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

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Polygamist leader calls charges religious persecution

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Mormon polygamists seek immunity from future prosecution before giving evidence in Canadian constitutional case

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Utah law professor uses Mormon polygamists as example of how religious extremism leads to deliberate child abuse

Polygyny and Canada’s Obligations under International Human Rights Law (pdf)

Research paper submitted to B.C. court in constitutional case documents harms associated with polygamy

Man from Bountiful says girls in Mormon polygamist communities "treated like poison snakes", taught to obey men and have many children

Bountiful evidence that polygamy harms women and children - constitutional case likely to reach Canadian Supreme Court

Review of the positions 12 intervener groups are expected to take in upcoming Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

Some religious practices, such as polygamy, are inherently harmful and should not be tolerated in modern society

Women's adovcates: polygamy is an “oppressive institution” that abuses and enslaves women and children

Prosecuting Polygamy in El Dorado by Marci Hamilton

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Polygamy Crimes: What Needs to Be Done at the Federal Level to Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect

Senate hearing: "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Texas Will Attempt to Show That Polygamist Culture Itself Harms Children

FLDS defendants complain their religious freedom violated, while denying religious freedom to their children

Children in Bountiful have religious rights too, but are denied them by parents claiming religious freedom

Some Canadian children are protected from religion-related abuse, while others are not

Polygamy is not freedom

Israeli politicians and women's advocates call for immediate change to polygamy law to protect rights of women and children

New study on polygamy in Malaysia finds evidence of harm to everyone involved

Indonesian Women's Association divided on whether polygamy, which is legal in Indonesia, is harmful to women and children

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