UK gives formal recognition to polygamy

February 3rd, 2008 - 5:29 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown

London, Feb.3 (ANI): The Gordon Brown Government has reportedly cleared a proposal that will allow husbands with multiple wives to claim extra welfare benefits.

According to a Sunday Telegraph report, bigamy is regarded as a crime in Britain and is punishable by up to seven years in prison, but this decision allows for recognition of polygamous marriages so long as such weddings take place in countries where it is legal.

The proposal will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law.

Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record.

Britain’s Conservative Party has condemned the proposal, accusing the Government of offering preferential treatment to a particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to demands for further changes in British law.

New guidelines on income support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: “Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate … The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently PS33.65.”

Income support for all of the wives may be paid directly into the husband’s bank account, if the family so choose. Under the deal agreed by ministers, a husband with multiple wives may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family.

The ruling could cost taxpayers millions of pounds.

Ministers launched a review of the benefit rules for polygamous marriages in November 2006, after it emerged that some families had benefited financially. The review concluded in December last year with agreement that the extra benefits should continue to be paid, the Government admitted. The decision was not publicly announced.

Islamic law permits men to have up to four wives at any one time - known as a harem - provided the husband spends equal amounts of time and money on each of them.(ANI)

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