Kazakhstan Debates Polygamy Amid Regional Rise in Popularity
Thursday, May 29, 2008 10:15 AM

Kazakhstan is currently considering legislation that would allow for legal polygamy.  A man's second, or even third marriage, would be recognized by the State, as well as under Islam.  To legally marry a second woman, according to the proposed bill, a man need only receive permission from his first wife and be able to demonstrate that he can financially support the second wife and any children they may have.

Those in support argue that a law recognizing polygamy will provide legal rights to children and women, who are recognized through nikah – or Islamic marriage, but are not recognized under the State law.  Supporters also argue that the law would help fuel growth of the population, as well as citing strong religious grounds and a historical acceptance of polygamy in the region.   However, it should be noted that four other countries in Central Asia currently outlaw the practice of polygamy.

Many in the legislature remain opposed to legalizing polygamy in Kazakhstan, believing that the answer is to hold fathers responsible for their children, whether in or out of wedlock.  The support from the general population is significantly stronger from men than women. 

The economic aspects of the issue are well recognized by both sides. While supporters contend that polygamy is a way for poor women to be supported by wealthy men, it also often means that women are vulnerable to forced or coerced marriages.  Further, it is not unusual for parents to sell a daughter for purposes of marriage.  Increasing the number of wives a man may take is reportedly leading to an increase in forced and coerced marriages.

Compiled from: Saidazimova, Gulnoza, "Kazakhstan Debates Polygamy Amid Regional Rise in Popularity," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, (last visited 29 May 2008).