Warsi calls for end to polygamy in UK

Issue 356

TORY peer Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury has called for the Government to tackle polygamy, where a man takes more than one wife.
Baroness Warsi, the shadow Cabinet member for community cohesion, wants all religious marriages to be registered.
Polygamy is a crime punishable with a sevenyear jail term but Baroness Warsi says politicians have failed to tackle the problem due to cultural sensitivity.
The Government has no figures on polygamous marriages but the practice is believed to be common in parts of the Muslim community and the number is thought to run into thousands nationally.
Taking more than one wife is legal in many Muslim countries and the UK benefits system recognises extra wives as dependents provided the marriage took place legally overseas.
In some cases it is thought Muslim men marry second wives in a religious ceremony in the UK without registering the marriage.
Baroness Warsi said: There has been a failure on the part of policymakers to respond.
Some of it has been done in the name of cultural sensitivity and weve just avoided either discussing or dealing with this matter head on.
There has to be a culture change and that has to be brought about by policymakers taking a very clear stance on this issue, saying that in this country, one married man is allowed to marry one woman.
That must be the way for everyone who lives in this country.
Baroness Warsi proposed rules making it compulsory to register private Muslim Nikah marriage ceremonies which take place in the home with an imam and a couple of witnesses there within a fourweek period.
She said: If that was the case, then those marriages would have to be declared within law and if those marriages were declared within law, then clearly if the person has a first legal wife then there could be potential cases of bigamy being brought.
Islamic law allows a man to take up to four wives provided he can support them properly and equally.
Men with multiple wives can claim extra income support, jobseekers allowance and housing and council tax benefits for his dependents provided the marriage took place legally overseas although the state only recognises one of his wives as his legal spouse.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: Polygamous marriages contracted in overseas countries are legally recognised.
It is not the role of Government to take a position on the rites, beliefs or practices of any particular religious faith.

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