Shatil - Israel May 24, 2011
Polygamy causes suffering among women, study finds
Arab women in Israel who are in polygamous marriages live in a state of poverty, neglect and anxiety.
These are the conclusions of a qualitative study conducted recently among Bedouin women in the Negev by SHATIL and Ma’an, the Forum for Arab Women’s Organizations in the Negev.
The study’s purpose was to examine the experiences of women living in polygamous marriages and to look at how polygamy affects their lives. In in-depth interviews with nine women, the researchers found that:
• the women fear divorce.
• they experience a serious deterioration in their economic situation once their husband marries an additional wife.
• the “left behind wife” loses her social benefits as the state does not recognize more than one wife.
• they suffer physical and emotional abuse after the additional marriage.
• there is a cycle of lack of education.
• all express anti-polygamy stands.
One of those surveyed tried to commit suicide after being beaten and humiliated by her husband. She said: “Everything I do is for my children. I cannot divorce and remarry because then I would lose my (eight) children.” (In Bedouin society, the children of divorce stay with the father and the mother may be forbidden from seeing them.)
R. 26, a mother of six who married at 14 and was forced by her husband’s family to leave school, said: “My husband’s third wife is now building a new home with my husband. I live in their basement. When I first came there, there was no electricity, water, windows or bathrooms. Today there are windows, but still no door.”
Z, whose father has three wives, sees the lack of justice that may arise from polygamy.
“My father has a son from his third wife and a daughter from my mother. Both are eight and are in the same class. My father pays for the class trips of his son but not of his daughter…Before we went to court, he would take our government child allowance…”
P, aged 38, echoed other women in polygamous marriages when she said: “I’m against polygamy, because it’s hard on the (first) wife and the children. Always, as a result of polygamy, one of the wives is neglected. This is hard on the mother and on the children because they need the father, they need their father’s voice, they need their fathers’ talk…sometimes they get out of control because of this.”
The findings strengthen academic studies of polygamy and enrich it with personal complexity. [see related articles links below]
The study was conducted by Hind Elsana, the lobbyist for SHATIL’s Bedouin Women’s Rights and Leadership Project, funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) as well as a Ma’an attorney and a SHATIL Everett Social Justice Fellow, Tamar Seter. The study’s conclusions were presented Tuesday at a conference at Ben Gurion University as well as at Ma’an’s 10th anniversary conference.
The study followed an intensive anti-polygamy media campaign by a coalition of Israeli Arab women’s organizations.
Ma’an has launched a project to raise awareness in the Bedouin community about the problems caused by polygamous marriages. A position paper prepared by Elsana will soon be presented to the Knesset.
This article was found at:
Israeli anti-polygamy activists run into Islamic opposition
Negev clerics and politicians infuriated by women's campaign to stop polygamous marriages among Israeli Beduin.
By DAVID E. MILLER / THE MEDIA LINE
A women’s group campaigning to stop polygamous marriages among Israeli Beduin is running into strong resistance from Islamic groups and even some politicians.
The organizers of the "No Excuse for Polygamy" campaign, launched at the end of November, have been called infidels in newspaper editorials and accused of serving the Zionist agenda by limiting the Arab birth rate. Last Friday’s sermon in a mosque in the Beduin town of Rahat war
Even heads of Negev regional councils representing Beduin towns have publicly denounced the anti-polygamy campaign.
Safa Shehadeh, director of Ma'an – the Forum for Arab Beduin Women's Organizations of the Negev, one of the groups behind the anti-polygamy campaign, said she expected traditionalists to push back. But the reaction has been more aggressive than she had expected.
"There were no personal threats against us," Shehadeh told The Media Line, "but some of the articles published by members of the Islamic Movement and municipal leaders included tacit threats."
In Islam, a man may marry up to four wives on condition that he provides for them equally. But in most Arab societies the phenomenon is frowned upon and in Israel polygamy is illegal, punishable by up to five years in prison. Nevertheless, the custom is deeply rooted in the culture of the Beduin Arabs who traditionally were tent-dwelling nomads but who have gradually been settled in permanent towns like Rahat.
Husbands will have their polygamous marriages sanctified religiously but not in the government marriage registrar. Indeed, many second, third and fourth wives are officially listed as single parents, entitling them to allowances.
Since polygamous marriages aren’t recognized by the government, no official statistics exist. But the Research and Information Center of Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, estimates that somewhere between 20% and 36% of Beduin households in the southern Negev region, where most of Beduin live, are polygamous.
The Working Group for Equality in Personal Status Issues (WGEPSI), which organized the campaign against multiple marriages, believes the number is at the high end of that range. It blames a lack of education and an undeclared Israeli policy of legal non-intervention as the main causes.
Primarily a media campaign using posters with women's testimonials, the "No Excuse for Polygamy" initiative also holds meetings and seminars aimed at educating single women about the price of polygamy. The campaign defending polygamy has been more visceral.
A menacing red and black advertisement published in Al-Hadath, a newspaper published in Rahat, urged women who had failed to get married by age 30 to find a husband to share.
"What is the solution for 7,513 unmarried women in the Negev over the age of 30?" the advertisement rhetorically asked. "Polygamy -- a shariah-sanctioned solution!" it said, answering its own question by defending the practice as approved under Islamic law.
Heba Yazbak, WGEPSI's activities coordinator, said she was heartened by the counter-measures. "This proves that our campaign has really destabilized them," she told The Media Line. "Many men in the southern branch of the Islamic Movement are married to more than one woman, so they have a personal stake in this."
Yazbak noted that the counter-campaign calls itself the Committee for Women's Equality in the Negev, a name similar to her own organization. It also copied the logo and poster design of the original anti-polygamy campaign. "It seems that our campaign threatens everyone," she said.
Sheikh Hammad Abu-Da'abes, head of the Islamic Movement's southern branch, said the women's movements had no answer to the growing problem of spinsterhood in a fast-urbanizing Beduin society.
Some 200,000 Beduin live in Israel, mostly in the Negev desert. With an annual growth rate of 5.5%, Israeli Beduins are one of the fastest growing populations in the world.
"Women are the greatest beneficiaries of polygamy," Abu-Da'abes told the Israeli-Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab. "Spinsterhood has reached 25% in Arab society, and when we fight polygamy we shut the door in the face of many women who wish to marry half a man due to their inability to marry a full man."
For that reason, Abu-Da'abes criticized Arab men who take foreign women in addition to their Arab wives, saying he would like to issue an Islamic legal opinion, known as a fatwa, against mixed marriages.
Yazbak dismissed Abu-Da'abes’ argument, saying polygamy causes poverty and dissolves the family structure. She asserted that Israel’s policy of non-intervention was part of a larger strategy to keep Arab society in Israel impoverished.
"Israeli law is not applied in the Negev," she said. "This is a marginalized and neglected part of the country."
Shehadeh of Ma'an said the opposition to the women’s campaign won’t sway her from fighting polygamy.
"They tried to question our legitimacy, our credibility and our patriotism, but this is a human rights issue,” she said. “We don't even go into the religious question of whether it's permissible or not."
This article was found at:
YNet News - Israel December 21, 2010
'Over 30 and single? Try polygamy'
Local Bedouin newspaper sparks calls on single Bedouin women who are over 30 to consider polygamous marriages, saying 'it's the Sharia solution'
by Ilana Curiel
Have a wife, or maybe a few: New ads have been popping up in local Bedouin newspapers throughout the Negev recently. The ads suggest that Bedouin women who are in their thirties and single try polygamous marriage as a solution to their "problem."
As polygamy is illegal in Israel, the people behind the ad campaign refuse to reveal their identities, but sign the ad as The Negev Committee for Women's Rights.
Even though polygamy is illegal and anyone marrying more than one woman is in danger of being arrested, the fact is that the law is hardly ever enforced. An ad featured in Rahat's Al Haddat newspaper states that the purpose of the campaign is to help women who have passed the 30-year mark and are having trouble finding a groom.
The ad also stated that according to Islamic law, marrying a second and even a third wife is an extremely effective solution for single women in their thirties.
The ad shows a 34-year-old Bedouin woman who tells of how she feels that her "future is bleak" because all of her friends are already married and she doesn't know if she will ever be able to experience motherhood. The question "What is the solution for 7,514 women in the Negev who are over 30 and still single?" was spread underneath her picture with an answer already included: "polygamy, the Sharia solution".
The ad's initiators shared an important stipulation – polygamy was allowed if a man can treat each wife equally. Those who cannot should not marry more than one woman. In addition to polygamy being illegal in Israel, the ad campaign itself is illegal because it encourages illegal activities. Various sources within the Bedouin community claim that the phenomenon has seen a worrying increase in recent years.
Attorney Rawia Aburabia of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who frequently lectures about the status of Bedouin women, in a forum on co-existence in the Negev stated that there was a 30%-40% rise in the number of polygamous marriages.
"Polygamy is a practice that oppresses everybody – women, children and men." According to Aburabia, the ad campaign comes as "a response to a major campaign against Polygamy which is being carried out by a number of equality and civil rights organizations."
The ad includes an email, but publisher remains anonymous
Polygamy also causes negative social trends within the Bedouin community. Among other things, mean who marry more than one woman 'import' women from Gaza and the West Bank so that the act is, when all is said and done – human trafficking. Polygamous marriages incur additional felonies, such as fictive divorces and national insurance fraud.
A central problem which the authorities deal with in efforts to enforce the law, is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to prove that any crime has been committed.
Meanwhile, it is unclear exactly who is behind the ad campaign, and all attempts to contact its initiators have failed. The ad includes a contact email but so far, Ynet has received no response. The editor of the newspaper in which the ad appeared said that the publishers wished to remain anonymous.
Police waiting for instructions
The southern region's prosecution said that they were well aware of the problem and noted: "This isn't a singular case; this is a social trend, which needs to be dealt with in a systematic and comprehensive manner.
"Over the last few months' discussions attended by officials including the southern region civil prosecutor, the southern region criminal prosecutor, additional representatives from the state prosecution, police representatives and other government officials were held for that purpose."
Referring to the polygamy trend the southern region police department stated that: "A Justice Ministry committee is discussing forming directives for law enforcement methods, the police will operate in accordance with the directives it receives."
Hassan Shaalan contributed to this report
This article was found at:
Barely 16 and married
Thousands of adolescent girls are married in Israel every year, decisive majority of them Arabs and Bedouins. Legal marriage age is 17, may increase to 18 due to new legislative initiative
by Yael Branovsky
"The day I was married I knew I would divorce. I didn't really understand what it meant to be married and mother, but I knew I do not want to be married. I wanted to be a normal teenage girl. Go to school and chat with my friends. But 25 years ago the decision was not mine. I was forced to marry a guy I barely knew. Love was definitely not in the air."
While many Arab and Bedouin women are marrying and having children in Israel every year, their peers are still in high school and preparing for enlistment in the army.
According to the 1950 Marriage Age Law, minors are permitted to marry at age 17. Although marriage prior to this age constitutes a crime, (assuming there are no mitigating circumstances, like pregnancy or birth). The law was legislated in 1950 and is considered progressive for its time, but in most European countries, in the US and even in Iraq, the legal marriage age is 18. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2008 there were 636 brides aged 16 and under (most were married between 2005 and 2007 and registered late with the Interior Ministry). Brides aged 17 numbered 1.455 and bridges aged 18 reached 2,519.
Hanna, who is now 41 years old, was married when she was 16. Today she recalls the mistake she made then. "My parents immigrated to Israel from Georgia, where it is customary to marry girls at a very young age. My father passed away and my mother was left alone with young children, so for her it was a relief to have me married at a young age. I met my husband through the arrangement and didn't really understand what I was getting into. Facts were created for me."
Hanna quickly became pregnant and decided to stay with her husband until the kids grew up. "From the start I knew this was not the person I want to grow old with, but I did want my children to grow up with a father figure." She left high school and did not study for many years, despite her ambitions. "I didn't go into the army and didn't experience a normal teenage upbringing. Only once my children had grown up did I complete my studies and even went on to so a master's degree but I know I missed out on the formative years of my life."
'The girls had no idea what they were getting into'
According to a position paper prepared by the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status, the number of Muslim girls that are married is double that of Jewish girls. At ages 16-17 the gap is four times as big. Most girls under age 16 who are married in Israel are Muslim. In 2006, 150 Muslim girls married before reaching their 16th birthday. For the sake of comparison, in that same year, six Jewish girls married at that age and 10 from other religious backgrounds. There are also Palestinian girls younger than 16 who are "imported" for the purpose of marriage. In 2007, 32 girls were "imported" for this purpose and married to Israeli men. In 2008 1,665 girls aged 14-18 gave birth in Israel, 77% of which were Muslim.
The authority that authorizes marriage below the legal age is the family courts. Among Muslims, the Sharia courts issue marriage authorizations retroactively and are supposed to report it to the police as required. However the reality is quite different.
Talking to Ynet, Rackman Center's chairperson, Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, said that the law in Israel is not enforced. Thus, for example, in 2007, 166 women under 16 years of age were married. Only 20 requests were submitted to the courts and only two cases were filed with the police and ultimately closed due to lack of public interest.
A., a young Beduoin woman from northern Israel, is currently completing her bachelor's degree in law. Both her brothers, aged 21 and 32, obtained a higher education abroad. "Despite the fact that my parents are not educated, they made sure we did get an education. I considered my family to be modern and progressive and that's why I was surprised when two years ago, both my brothers married cousins of ours who were only 16 years old. My parents did not object, as they wanted my brothers to be married. I tried explaining to my brothers that these girls were too young and not ready for marriage, but they did not listen."
According to A., "My older brother said he wanted to be with someone who has not yet seen the world, so he could educate her and mold her as he saw fit. I also spoke with the mother of these girls, who herself married at a young age and likes to tell the story of how, when she was that age, she would wait for her husband to arrive to give her money to go buy candies. I believe these girls did not understand what they were getting themselves into and a lot of pressure was exerted on them."
Warda ElKranawi, the coordinator of SHATIL's Bedouin Women's Leadership Project coordinator in Beer Sheva, says that unfortunately, in recent years the subject has actually received less attention. "Men prefer to marry very young women who have no experience. This is evident even among the educated. Beyond the damage this causes women, who are not mature or knowledgeable enough to run a household, it is also a serious blow to our society. A child who does not receive proper support and education at home will not grow up to become a responsible citizen, and our society continues to go in this problematic direction."
The girls themselves, explains ElKranawi, are willingly marrying at such a young age: "Girls only 15 years old dream of getting married, because they understand it to be the way to independence. After all, if you are 20 or older, you may be married as a second wife. Even if a woman has obtained an education, she will not be independent. Her parents will continue to make decisions for her."
Deputy Minster Gila Gamliel is working on changing the legislation by raising the marriage age to 18 and toughening the conditions for receiving special authorization and increasing regulation: "Even when the marriage is not consecrated under coercion, it is difficult to say that it was done consensually since the girls are so young. It leads to immature motherhood, ignorance and the perpetuation of poverty. High percentages of the girls suffer from physical violence, economic exploitation and emotional abuse. Their lives are in the hands of their families and their husbands."
The entities dealing with this issue are not sure that raising the legal age will necessarily help the situation. "I don't know how much it can help since, in Israel, people get married through religious institutions. The social reforms must go much deeper," says SHATIL's ElKranawi.
Circumventing the law
Tatiana, 25, who married at age 15 and a half and is mother to four children, believes changes to the law will not actually bring about change: "I was ready and in love and for people like me I don't think it will make a difference. Even if they change the legal marriage age to 30, people will simply live together."
Despite losing out on an education, she has no regrets. "We were young and very in love, and I knew I wanted to marry him. My mother raised me by herself and from a very young age I learned to manage on my own, cook and clean. I tried convincing my husband to wait till I was 18 to get married, but he did not want to hear it. At 17 I already became a mother and a year later I had another child. I quit my studies and never worked. Now, with my children grown up, I want to study and have a profession, because I feel that I was left behind. My children no longer need me like they used to and I am currently looking to register for courses."
Hanna is also doubtful the new legislation will have any effect: "I do not believe the law will change anything. There are communities in Israel that are completely isolated, who will always find a way. I know a family that decided to marry their daughter at age 14. The community rabbi gave his blessings and only after she became pregnant, did the court issue an authorization. I believe that in other closed communities like it, people will find ways to circumvent the law. There are certain cultures in which this is so firmly ingrained that no law will help."
Professor Halperin-Kaddari strongly believes that the state must raise the legal marriage age: "We must align ourselves with international norms. Early marriage generally lead to early motherhood and international studies have shown that as a result, women suspend their education and their socioeconomic status remains low. Studies have also proven a strong connection between early marriage physical violence. This usually occurs in closed communities and we as a state must protect our children."
This article was found at:
RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG
Mormon fundamentalist leader must testify in tax case and reveal details of polygamy and child brides in Bountiful
Mormon polygamist who pleaded no contest to child bride sex assault appeals conviction based on search warrant
Israeli politicians and women's advocates call for immediate change to polygamy law to protect rights of women and children
Research from over 170 countries shows polygamy causes extreme violations of women and children's rights
Book investigating Mormon polygamy suggests prohibition enables sect leaders to commit sex crimes
Two reality TV polygamist wives want out of marriage but fear losing kids, family hires lawyer as state considers charges
Author who escaped abuse in US polygamy cult explains why Canadian constitutional case is so important in both countries
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.
Religious practice not above the law, polygamy consumes its young says Attorney General of BC in closing argument
Summary of positions in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy as court begins hearing final oral arguments
Lawyer says extraordinary evidence in Canadian case shows polygamous society consumes children, harms women
A review of the Canadian constitutional case on polygamy after completion of testimonies
Canadian Muslim polygamists closely watching landmark constitutional case on Canadian polygamy law
Economics professor considers financial aspects of polygamy that create inequality
Legal expert tells Canadian court polygamy prohibitions and monogamy tradition pre-date Christianity
B.C. government expert in polygamy case sets out long list of social harms, societies that abandon polygamy do better
Polygamy expert tells court in constitutional case that it reduces women's freedom and equality and leads to forced marriage
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
Bountiful evidence that polygamy harms women and children - constitutional case likely to reach Canadian Supreme Court
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