Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The FLDS Compound Raid: Identifying the Correct Root of the Problem

Once again, Alternet has provided me with excellent blogging fodder. In today's article, Prosecuting Polygamy, the author talks about the recent raid on the FLDS ranch in Texas, taking the position:

Authorities must vigorously enforce the laws against polygamy to stem the abuse of women and children in fundamentalist Mormon communities.

To say I found her opinion and the resulting article to be extremely short-sighted would be to make an understatement. Following below is my response to the article:

]The Author Misidentifed the Root Cause of the Problem

First, to be completely correct technically, what the FLDS is practicing is PolyGYNY, not polygamy, per se. Polygyny is when only men may have multiple spouses, where polygamy allows both men and women to do so. Polygyny is the most common type of polygamy, but that doesn't make it synonymous with polygamy, as the media is usually prone to assume.

Second, the root cause behind the abuse of the women and children here is an extreme of patriarchal fundamentalist religion, not the polygyny, per se. The truth of this is borne out by the fact that children who live in insular patriarchal fundamentalist religious compounds in monogamous families typically are subject to the same types of abuse. Monogamy, in and of itself, is hardly a protection against abuse for children or women.

Third, the existence of polyamory, which allows both men and women to have multiple spouses, but is secular and egalitarian in nature, shows that abuse is not an inherent characteristic in multi-spouse families.

Fourth, adequate laws already exist to protect people from domestic abuse and underage/forced marriage, regardless of the form their families take. The fault here lies with law enforcement officials who were hesitant to enforce laws that they have no compunction about enforcing when the abuse happens in a monogamous and/or secular family, because our society tends to view religion as a sacred cow.

It's not the form a family takes that determines likelihood of abuse, but, rather, how people act within whatever form their relationships take. What increases the likelihood of abuse is adhering to an extreme insular patriarchal fundamentalist religion, regardless of whether the marriages are monogamous or polygynous.

The government rightly needs to protect children from underage marriage, whether it's monogamous or polygynous...or polyandrous, for that matter. It also needs to protect the women from marriage under duress, regardless of age. And for those polygynous marriages that were entered into by those old enough to consent of their own free will, then leave them alone.

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