Consensual polygamous marriage should also be legalized

contraUnequal polygamy

A man who marries two or more women - that is forbidden in Germany. And it should stay that way in the future.

In March the polygamy of an Iraqi refugee was discussed in the northern Bavarian district of Neumarkt. The man has 13 children from two women. Family reunification in Bavaria actually only applies to one wife. In particular cases of hardship, however, the second woman can follow suit. When the family was registered, the authorities recognized polygamy because it was conducted abroad. In Germany, the man could not have married several times.

Polygamy is a way of life that has been lived in very different cultures and for a long time. In their book "Sex - The True Story", scientists Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá describe how overlapping sexual relationships changed into groups and polygamous relationships declined about ten thousand years ago. To this day, however, polygamy is legal in all Muslim countries except Tunisia and Turkey. Muslim polygamy should be the focus of this text, also because refugees make such a marriage model more present in Germany.

Multiple marriages disadvantage women

In Germany, multiple marriages are not officially allowed to be concluded. But it is possible for imams to arrange them even if they are not legally recognized. There are no reliable statistics on multiple marriages of Muslims in Germany. The Lebanese social worker Bed Chaaban from Berlin-Neukölln, who supports immigrant families in their everyday lives, estimates that 30 percent of all Arab men in Berlin have two wives. An officially recognized, official wife and an unofficial wife who has been married off by an imam.

This religious polygamy is problematic: Since the German legal situation does not accept more than one wife, this second woman has fewer rights than the first. Through her marriage she is tied to a man who, from a state perspective, has no financial obligations towards her.

Even if a multiple marriage is amicable, it only guarantees the man's sovereignty. A Muslim woman cannot decide how many men to marry. According to the Koran, a man can have up to four wives. While a woman is not allowed to live in a partnership with several men at the same time. This gender disadvantage contradicts the German Basic Law, which in Article 3 prescribes the equality of men and women.

Polygamy can ultimately lead to women not only being disadvantaged legally but also emotionally. Men can choose many women, but a woman must share her husband with other women. It is difficult to imagine that a man can give every woman the affection of equal value they deserve.

Less for the kids

In addition, the children of men who are married several times are financially at a disadvantage. Since 2018, fathers who do not live with their offspring have had to pay EUR 348 to EUR 844 per child support according to the new Düsseldorf table, which determines the maintenance rate, depending on age and income. A lot of money for a small income. Sometimes this is not enough and leaves the children empty-handed.

Then the state steps in. According to the Maintenance Advance Act, children up to the age of 17 receive EUR 342 to 460 per month - less than they should actually receive, especially since the state child benefit is not paid in this case.

No spouse splitting rule

Multiple marriages are also very complicated in terms of tax law. In Germany, according to Paragraph 26 of the Income Tax Act, the spouse splitting scheme can be used if both spouses are subject to income tax. One partner changes to a worse, because more expensive, tax class so that the other (usually the better-earning of the two) gets into an advantageous, because cheaper tax class. In the end, the couple is happy about more net income together.

But what happens when there are three or four earners, as can happen with multiple marriages? Legislation has not yet found an answer to this. And even if it had one, it would probably be even more complicated than German tax law already is.

So why all this when the decision, which has long been made for good reason, has already been made: polygamy should remain prohibited so that no one is disadvantaged.