In 1998, about 40,000 people living in Utah were part of polygamous families, or about 1.4 percent of the population.  Polygamists have been difficult to prosecute, as many apply for marriage licenses only for their first marriage, while other marriages are celebrated secretly in private ceremonies. After that, secondary brides try to be seen in public as single women with children.  Hindu law allows polygamy in certain settings, although the application varies from one Hindu country to another. For example, traditional Hindu law allowed polygamy if the first wife could not give birth to a son. In addition, Balinese Hinduism allows sanctioned and unrestricted polygamy, but marriage is regulated by adat or traditional customs. The world is increasingly accepting of gender-sensitive behaviours, gender fluidity and equal rights for all. Multi-person relationships, whatever they are called, are also becoming commonplace, at least in the public consciousness. But like their ancestors, not all participants in polyamorous relationships are treated fairly in the eyes of the law. Nearly a dozen countries that do not allow polygamous civil marriages recognize polygamous marriages at common law. All states in northern Nigeria governed by Islamic Sharia law recognize polygamous marriages. The autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland in northern Somalia recognize polygamy, as does the country`s transitional government itself, as the country is subject to Sharia law. Newly independent South Sudan also recognizes polygamy.
The town of Somerville, Massachusetts, has issued an ordinance that makes it one of the first cities in the country to officially recognize polyamorous relationships. The city no longer limits the number of people involved in a partnership. It is estimated that 4% to 5% of people living in the United States currently participate in polyamorous relationships, or what is also known as consensual or ethical non-monogamy, a practice in which partners have more than one sexual or romantic relationship with each other`s knowledge and consent. For comparison, non-monogamy is about as prevalent as the number of Americans who identify as LGBTQ, which is estimated at about 4.5% of the U.S. population. Empirical evidence increasingly refutes concerns expressed by some about polyamorous relationships. “This research shows that these types of relationships are not unhealthy for families and children and can be healthy and stable,” Chen says. This data is “really important when you`re talking to legislators, judges and the public.” Natasha Aggarwal LL.M. `21 didn`t know much about polyamory until she became a clinical student at the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic at Harvard Law School`s WilmerHale Legal Services Center last spring. But after working at the clinic with the new Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, Aggarwal, an Indian corporate lawyer who came to HLS last year to study feminist theory, says, “Now I feel very, very strong about it.” Cambridge is one of the cities in the United States that legalizes polyamorous relationships. Polyamory has proven that it has legal privileges in some cities in and around the United States. Last spring, PLAC organized media training for individuals and families in polyamorous relationships.
“We had over 40 people from the community interested in telling their stories,” Chen says, and the clinical students interviewed them and transcribed their stories. A family of three had been together for more than 10 years, Chen says. One of the individuals was hospitalized with a serious illness; One of his partners, to whom they are married, was able to visit him as a wife, but the other had to lie and pretend that she was the sick man`s sister. The family fears that their family structure will affect their ability to apply for health insurance from one of the partners` employers. We, as members of the legal community, need to start by discussing how to address issues related to multi-person relationships if they arise in the future. We do not need to take sides, nor does this article purport to defend one way or another; But in the absence of laws to follow, we must be ready when a customer walks through our doors to ask for help. This argument frustrates Aggarwal and others. “I don`t quite understand why polyamory is problematic,” says Aggarwal, who will return to India in the fall to work at a research center on reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights. “From my point of view, it simply means that there is more love in the world, that your heart is so big that you are able to love several people at the same time in the same capacity.” In Afghanistan, the Quran allows a man to take a maximum of four wives. Men can treat all their women equally. As a result, polygamy is systematically recognized and practised in Afghanistan.
But the rules are rarely followed. In addition, Afghans are allowed to take an indefinite number of women as wives or concubines. Polygamy is illegal in Mexico, despite a few cases there. In the Federal Penal Code, there is a section entitled “Against civil status and bigamy” Pedagogically it is really interesting. I think the students really enjoyed working on polyamory rights for a variety of reasons,” says Chen, who was the first openly transgender editor of Harvard Law Review and has worked on LGBTQ+ litigation and advocacy at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other organizations. “On the one hand, the legal issues are very new, so it`s very interesting intellectually.” Additionally, because they focus on communities, students learn about different types of government structures and how to form coalitions as they work to pass local laws.