Increased crime, prostitution and anti-social behaviour. Greater inequality between men and women. Less parental investment in children. And, a general driving down of the age of marriage for all women.
These are some of the harms of polygamy (or more correctly, polygyny, since it is almost always men marrying more than once) that are outlined in a 45-page research paper by noted Canadian scholar Joseph Henrich, filed Friday in B.C. Supreme Court.
Henrich is uniquely qualified to look at polygamy’s harm. He’s a member of the departments of economics, psychology and anthropology at the University of British Columbia and holds the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution.
But he’d never really thought about it until this year when Craig Jones approached him. Jones is the lead lawyer in the B.C. government’s constitutional reference case, which will be heard in November by B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman.
Now, Henrich’s conclusions form part of the intellectual and evidentiary underpinning for the province’s argument that even if outlawing polygamy breaches the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and freedom of expression, it’s justified.
In addition to Henrich’s paper, the government has filed or will be filing affidavits from other specialists in the history of Western polygamy, Islamic law, psychology and medicine.
The full article includes references to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, the failed prosecution of FLDS Bountiful, B.C. leaders Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler and more research by Henrich into the sociological effects of polygamy.
• Daphne Bramham has been a columnist at the Vancouver Sun since 2000 and has won numerous awards for her writing, including a National Newspaper Award. She was named Commentator of the Year by the Jack Webster Foundation in 2005 and was honoured by the non-profit group Beyond Borders for a series of columns on the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C. She is the author of The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect
• Research resources on polygamy