British politician calls for stamping out Muslim polygamy

February 20th, 2009 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 20 (IANS) A leading female Muslim politician in Britain said Friday she wants the government to make it compulsory to register all religious marriages so Muslim men stop taking more than one wife.
Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, who belongs to the opposition Conservative Party, said the Labour government had ignored tackling polygamy because of the “cultural sensitivity” surrounding the issue.

“There has been a failure on the part of policy makers to respond to this situation,” she told BBC Radio 4.

“Some of it has been done in the name of cultural sensitivity and we’ve just avoided either discussing or dealing with this matter head on.

“There has to be a culture change and that has to brought about by policy makers taking a very clear stance on this issue, saying that in this country, one man is allowed to marry one woman,” she said.

“And that must be the way for everyone who lives in this country,” added Warsi, who is her party’s spokeswoman for community cohesion and a member of Britain’s upper chamber of parliament.

Warsi wants the government to register all religious marriages within a four-week period.

“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,” she said.

Experts say the practice of polygamy is increasing among South Asian Muslims in Britain because they don’t have to register a religious marriage.

“Sadly it is increasing on the part of British-born men who… sometimes marry British-born girls, but more often… someone in the sub-continent then go back and abandon wife number one and take wife number two,” said Professor Haleh Afshar, of York University.

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