Dutch Mayors unhappy that the law allows polygamists citizenship

According to Earth Times, 4 mayors in the Netherlands are seeking a change in the law, as men “of a foreign origin” who return to their country of origin and marry polygamously, and later return to the Netherlands, can still attain Dutch citizenship. However the Mayors don’t know for sure how big an issue this is, at it is reported that the official statistics bureau considers multiple marriages as “administrative errors” and therefore deletes them from their statistics.

The mayors are advocating that these men be discriminated against purely because of their legal marital unions, as otherwise they would and do qualify for naturalisation.

What the article doesn’t highlight is that this issue could also raise its head in a number of other jurisdictions.The discipline of Private International Law is a complex one, but it’s where you should start looking if you think that any of this may apply to you. For example, in the United Kingdom, people who live in Britain, but are or become “domiciled” in a country which allows polygamy, and then contract a series of simultaneous marriages, before moving back to the UK, are legally recognised as polygamous by UK law – that is, each of their polygamous marriages is considered valid by the law. Anyone considering this should note that it is arguable that this would still apply even if one had already been monogamously married in Britain or elsewhere, but that this final point is not established.

An additional twist is that if they go through further marriage ceremonies in the UK while having their first and second marriages as legally polygamous, they can’t be charged with bigamy, as they don’t have the right sort of first marriage. In other words, in the UK, actual polygamists are effectively immune from prosecution for polygamy – for more on this see the book Polygamy, Bigamy and Human Rights Law (Amazon Kindle edition) by, err…, me.  (The book has been cited in international research on polygamy, and referred to in the British Columbia Supreme Court in the 2010-11 Polygamy Reference Case in Canada, where the book was entered into evidence as an exhibit and relied upon both by those arguing for decriminalisation of polygamy, and those seeking to maintain polygamy as a criminal offence.)

You should also note that it is not the polygamists who have raised this issues, but some elected politicians. The push for “polygamy rights” sometimes does not appear to be as fervent as for other minority groups, possibly in part due to the fact that these rights only become important often when something goes wrong – i.e. whether you are married to a particular person or not is most often a legal issue when you are trying to get divorced from them, rather than if you are continuing to live happily together. The upshot of this is that legal systems find themselves having to choose between recognising polygamy or denying relief to a woman who wants to be divorced. Refusing to recognise polygamy rarely protects women’s rights, and some male polygamists may have less to gain in pushing for legal recognition of their lifestyle.

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