Ministers to bar polygamists from claiming extra benefits
Fri, 27 Jan 2012
The Government is set to stop men who are married to multiple women from claiming extra benefits payments.
Last year it emerged that the number of polygamous relationships among British Muslims is increasing.
Polygamy is currently illegal in Britain, but there are concerns redefining marriage for homosexuals could could pave the way for polygamy to be recognised.
Currently men who have married more than one woman in countries where the practice is legal before coming to the UK are allowed to receive multiple benefits.
But Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, has said the Government will bring the practice to an end.
He said: “We currently have an absurd situation where polygamous marriages are outlawed in the UK but recognised in the benefits system because of a loophole.
“This really has to change. We are now altering our systems as part of the introduction of Universal Credit, to put an end to a situation which only has the effect of undermining confidence in the benefits system.”
Last year Khola Hassan, lecturer in Islamic Law and volunteer on the UK Sharia Council, said it has witnessed a sense of right to polygamy develop particularly among third generation British Muslims.
Speaking last year she he said: “Divorce applications are 95 per cent by women. Out of 700 applications last year for divorce, there were 43 that cited polygamy as a reason for wanting divorce.
“It was in the top ten reasons cited for divorce.”
She identified three main types of men who are involved in polygamy. The first is the growing number of young Muslim men who want to practice a more orthodox and conservative form of the religion.
The second is those forced into unhappy first marriages. The third are those who have a parent living abroad and want someone to look after them.
In America, Kody Brown and his four ‘wives’ claimed that Utah’s bigamy law is unconstitutional because it violates their right to privacy.
Their lawyers are using Supreme Court rulings, such as a case from 2003 when judges ruled that homosexual acts in private were protected by the US constitution, to argue against the law.
In November a judge in Canada upheld the country’s ban on polygamous marriages, but the case is likely to be appealed.
Canada legalised same-sex marriage in 2005 and polygamist supporters say it is unfair to ban polygamy.