I don't know why, but I am fascinated by polygamy. Not in a "I want to be a sister-wife" myself kind of fascination, but sociologically interested. Maybe because I grew up in S. Idaho where non-Mormons were the minority.
I read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer and found it well-written and fascinating. I also read "Leaving the Saints" by Martha Beck. And then I read several books about polygamy by women who had lived it and escaped. The past two days, NPR has been airing a two part-series on polygamy among Muslims in the US. I didn't realize polygamy is part of that religion. Again and again, they interviewed women who had been married and then abandoned when their husband took on additional wives and/or left the country. Because of their religious beliefs, these women can't divorce; they are not legally recognized as married anyway. So they have to hope that the man will send them money to support their children. It's very sad.
The thing is, I think polygamy should be legal. I do. I can understand a woman's interest in being a sister-wife: there is a strong sense of community AND if the women work together and respect one another, they can be a strong and powerful family unit, raising all the children together. I mean, what mother hasn't wished for another female in the house to take over when you needed a break or to help with the laundry and cooking?! And frankly, I suspect many women wouldn't even mind their husband going for conjugal visits with another woman. The problems arise when the women realize that, because polygamy is not recognized as a legal union in this country, they have NO rights to being treated with respect, to ask for money, to get jobs.
Keeping it illegal gives WAY too much power to men. Only the first wife is legally married to the man; subsequent marriages are ceremonial/religious unions only. If polygamy were legal, each wife would have equal rights. But of course the men wouldn't like that at all.
Furthermore, making polygamy legal would bring it out of the shadows and the secrets of multiple marriages and marrying off young girls would be out in the open. By making it illegal, we've forced them in to hiding where they can do whatever they want in the name of religion, including allowing girls as young as 11 to marry men old enough to be their grandfathers. Legalizing it and bringing it out in the open would make it possible for girls and women to come forward and have legal recourse when they are abused.
Furthermore, as it stands, polygamists are a huge drain on our social services (such as welfare) because the women are legally single mothers. This allows the men to have as many children as he can produce without have to take financial resposibility for them.
This seems like a no-brainer to me. What do you think?