Decrease of Polygamy is noticeable in Kurdistan
Official statistics show that throughout Kurdistan region only 53 men married a second wife in 2012. In a press conference held in Erbil two weeks ago, Judge Diyar Hameed, the official spokesman of the justice High committee said, “This number in 2012 compared to previous years has decreased to a great degree. People are restricted nowadays to get married with a second wife, and in order to do that they need to have permission from their first wife”.
Polygamy has been a contentious subject for a long time in Kurdistan, but it officially surfaced publicly in 2008 when it was dealt with by the Kurdistan Government, media and Kurdish Parliament. Many attempts were made by women organizations to abolish polygamy in Kurdistan region. Protests by women were brought to Parliament, and a draft law was issued calling for the amendment of the personal status law as a whole.
The heated discussions led to Parliament postponing the reviewing and decision on that draft law, where the discussions highlighted three different opinions. The first called for placing restrictions on polygamy; the second demanded its abolishment, while the third opinion believed that such a right should not be interfered with, and that it was granted by God to men.
Islam permits polygamy, given the condition that the marriage is done in an honorable and just way. A Muslim man can marry up to four wives, but if he feels that he might do injustice to any of his wives in a polygamous marriage, then he should marry one woman only.
Some Muslim majority countries have applied laws preventing polygamy, such as Turkey, Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Tunisia. Meanwhile in places like Libya and Morocco, a written permission from the first wife is necessary prior to marrying another woman.
In 2008, an amendment to the 1959 Iraqi Personal Status Law was passed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Northern Iraq. Up until the passing of this amendment, a man had the freedom to marry up to four women. According to the new amendment, men are now limited to marrying a maximum of two women, and not four. He can only take the second wife if his first wife is unable to have children or suffers from a disease. Men who violate these restrictions will either serve six months in prison or pay a fine of 10 Million Iraqi Dinars.
Based on the statistical data released by Judge Hameed, in general 56,000 normal marriage cases have been recorded in Kurdistan Region and Gramiyan area in 2012. 20,275 of the cases were from Erbil, 15,917 from Suleimaniya, 13,849 from Duhok, and 5,961 from Garmiyan area.
Although there were many applications to get married for the second time, only 53 people were permitted to take a second wife. Within this number, 21 men were from Erbil, 18 from Suleimaniya, and 14 from Duhok. The law has been difficult to enforce within Kurdistan region because Kurds who are eager to take a second wife have found a way to bypass it. Some travel to South and Middle parts of Iraq where having a second wife is still legal.
Sociologists, and people in general have differing opinions regarding polygamy. Some believe that it is a thing of the past that served its purpose during a specified time where men were killed in battle, and women were left behind. "Polygamy is about to be completely abolished in the region. This is partly because of the influence of the amended law on one hand. On the other hand people have resigned themselves to the fact that a family consisting of a husband and two or more wives can never live happily and successfully," said Shivan Ismail, Sociology instructor in Salahaddin University's Arts College.
There are many others who think that men should be allowed to take sec- ond wife because a large number of Kurdish men are migrating to European countries and have left the Kurdistan region with a shortage of men compared to women. "Women aren't completely independent in this society. There are a lot of women whose suitors are only married men. In this situation, it is better for the women to marry with married men than to stay single." Noted Sherwan Kazim, a sociologist.
This picture shows a Kurdish man exchange rings with his partener.