Polygamy is not illegal in the UK

Studying for a PhD in engineering at Cambridge, she might not seem like a prime candidate to enter into a polygamous marriage.

But that is what Nabilah Phillips did, dropping out of university to become the second woman married to businessman Hasan Phillips who has since acquired a third wife.

Yesterday it emerged that Mrs Phillips, from North London, is among thousands of Muslim women entering into such relationships which are illegal in the UK but allowed under sharia law which permits men to have four wives.

Bigamy is illegal: being legally (or, as it works out, trying to be legally) married to more than one person at the same time. But that’s not what happens here. There’s one legal marriage (or perhaps none) and a series of religious only marriages.

And the law says nowt about which sky fairy is allowed to determine who you decide to bed or live with.

Polygamy isn’t legal: there’s no legal recognition of the relationships for example, no claims for benefits as a married couple etc. But it’s also not illegal either. Probably best described as alegal. You know, like so many things in life, there’s no special provision in the law for it either way. Also known as freedom and liberty.

23 comments on “Polygamy is not illegal in the UK

  1. Yup, it’s basically a case of a bloke with a wife has a mistress or two shacked up with him also. Unusual when viewed through western eyes, not to mention insane, but not illegal.

  2. I was wondering whether to bring this sort of arrangement up at home? You know, testing the waters!

    No, maybe not.

  3. Ah ,but this brings us back to a subject I’ve banged on about before. What people do in their private lives is up to them. But marriage is & never has been about what people do in their private lives. Marriage is the form that private thing becomes public & becomes recognised by the wider community.
    So you can see how the ratchet could go. If polygamous marriage is acknowledged by the Muslim community. And all right thinking people should respect other faiths. Then right thinking people should respect polygamous marriage. The legalising will naturally follow. Once legalised we can’t discriminate when it comes to benefits etc, can we?
    It’s a replay of same sex marriage.

  4. I was wondering whether to bring this sort of arrangement up at home? You know, testing the waters!

    As I said, you’d need to be insane, and not just because of the expected reaction.

    A wife at home, a mistress here, another there: all good. More than one wife at home? Who the hell wants that?!

  5. What Tim Newman said.

    Having a bit on the side – leaving the morality and whatnot out of it – is rational. You get the benefits of a bit on the side without the extra costs of a second wife. And I’m not thinking primarily of financial costs.

    Having more than.one wife at home is crazy. You’d get more peace sharing your home with a hive of Africanised killer bees.

    People tend to assume the women in polygamous relationships are downtrodden domestic servants. Maybe in the harems of the East (though I have no idea), but does anybody seriously think Western women become docile and deferential when they’re shacked up in a Mormon multiple marriage?

    I seriously doubt it. More likely those guys in Utah are in a living hell with two or more women to demand why they aren’t earning more, why they don’t spend more time with them and the kids, and why doesn’t he listen?!?

  6. Er, looks like Tim’s confused between polyamory and polygamy. The latter is most certainly illegal in England: the polyamorous community regularly finds members being hassled by police over it, because whatever the legislation may say, the test used in practice is whether it ‘looks like’ a marriage.

    Tim Newman>

    “More than one wife at home? Who the hell wants that?!”

    The effects of competition on poor conditions can be very positive 🙂

  7. It’s certainly not an experiment I should want to risk but I’m thinking it might be easier for a chap with uxorial abundance to slip away quietly.

  8. If polygamous marriage is acknowledged by the Muslim community. And all right thinking people should respect other faiths. Then right thinking people should respect polygamous marriage. The legalising will naturally follow.

    Reminds me of a situation at university, long ago. Students paid a certain amount for the catering whether they ate in hall or not. But Jewish students who kept strict kosher (and, I think Muslims who kept halal, but I can’t remember) were exempt on the grounds that they couldn’t eat there. Then the strict vegans – who also reckoned they couldn’t – started to argue that they should receive the same treatment, as there was no reason why their beliefs should be regarded as any less valid.

    So for shite and giggles my mate and I demanded that we should be exempt as well, because we believed passionately in “not eating shit food”. And were told roundly, and probably rightly, to piss off.

  9. I’ve always thought the definition of bigamy was of having one wife too many.

    In which respect its the same as monogamy.

  10. I don’t have a problem with polygamy. Other peoples’ sleeping arrangements are none of my business, and it is at least a recognised traditional form of marriage globally, which is more than you can say for teh gheys.

    I’ve always wanted to marry identical twins, myself. I did nearly marry one once. But not the other. The other was a disappointing identical twin in looking very little like the one I nearly married, not least by being about 50% more abundant in subcutaneous lipids, and I didn’t fancy her at all. Which was strangely both a disappointment and a relief; the former because it ruined my nascent fantasies, and the latter because it ruined my nascent fantasies.

    Anyway, I have no particular problem with polygamy personally, at least if done in the modern way for reasons of affection and rumpy pumpy rather than as a means to aquire more goats and camels. I have a major problem with the Levantine social value system in general, but that’s a different thing.

  11. @”sam
    September 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm
    If polygamous marriage is acknowledged by the Muslim community. And all right thinking people should respect other faiths. Then right thinking people should respect polygamous marriage. The legalising will naturally follow.

    Reminds me of a situation at university, long ago. Students paid a certain amount for the catering whether they ate in hall or not. But Jewish students who kept strict kosher (and, I think Muslims who kept halal, but I can’t remember) were exempt on the grounds that they couldn’t eat there. Then the strict vegans – who also reckoned they couldn’t – started to argue that they should receive the same treatment, as there was no reason why their beliefs should be regarded as any less valid.

    So for shite and giggles my mate and I demanded that we should be exempt as well, because we believed passionately in “not eating shit food”. And were told roundly, and probably rightly, to piss off.”

    Why rightly? Surely the same rights should apply to everyone.

  12. Actually living with three women is the ideal number because they argue with each other and you can sneak off to the pub.

  13. Polygamy …also known as freedom and liberty.
    Up to a point Lord Copper.
    Marriage is about having and raising kids, and under sharia law, this bloke gets automatic custody of them from age 5 (I think; could be 4) and has us kafirs fund them and wives beyond #1 via child & single parent benefits.
    Not very libertarian.

  14. In “Roughing It”, Mark Twain describes a visit to Salt Lake City in the 1860s, and a meeting with a polygamist. This man’s troubles with his wives matches with what Steve said.

  15. Steve – “People tend to assume the women in polygamous relationships are downtrodden domestic servants. Maybe in the harems of the East (though I have no idea), but does anybody seriously think Western women become docile and deferential when they’re shacked up in a Mormon multiple marriage?”

    Well yes. I do. Up to a point. Look, in modern marriage the wife has the upper hand partly because she knows she can push the nuclear Divorce button and the whole edifice of the state will come down on her soon-to-be-ex like a ton of bricks. She doesn’t even have to do it. She just has to remind him every now and then that he will face two decades of poverty and indentured servitude if she does not get her way.

    But also because she can ration sex. Most women control their husbands by giving him just enough so he won’t cheat, but not enough that he is, you know, happy or anything. If the husband has another wife, she loses that power. So naturally relations are going to be wildly different in a polygamous household.

    “I seriously doubt it. More likely those guys in Utah are in a living hell with two or more women to demand why they aren’t earning more, why they don’t spend more time with them and the kids, and why doesn’t he listen?!?”

    Western men are doing it wrong. We are weak and spineless – at work and at home – and as a result women despise us. Especially those we are married to. The Mormons have stuck to a more patriarchal interpretation of the way life should be. Muslims even more so. I would bet some good money that their wives are significantly more happy. Mormons less so of course. If a wife is nagging like that it is because her husband is not manning up.

  16. Ian B – “I don’t have a problem with polygamy. Other peoples’ sleeping arrangements are none of my business, and it is at least a recognised traditional form of marriage globally, which is more than you can say for teh gheys.”

    You should have. Because other people’s sleeping arrangements have an enormous impact on society as a whole. Democracy is only compatible with monogamy. If we give it up, we give up every little remaining fragment of the liberal state and will end up like Egypt.

  17. The best defence against the legalization of polygamy was stated when this young man asked his dad why a man who had tried to be married to two wives at the same time had been sent to prison.

    The father thought for a minute, then replied, “The law is there to protect those who have demonstrated that they cannot protect themeslves.”

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