Polygamy is a taboo topic,
mostly ignored by our
society for its inconvenience.
However, despite the fact
that polygamy is deemed as
illegal in the UK, thousands
of BAME women find
through religious ceremonies called a ‘Nikah’ usually found in Muslim communities, which is not registered nor is it recognised by the state. While MEWSO does not judge or discriminate against the reasons as to why some women may commit themselves to a polygamous marriage, there are harmful side effects of such marriages experienced by these women that need close consideration, further contributing to our overall stance against polygamy as a practice. Since these marriages are not recognised as legitimate under UK law, the women in these marriages are not legally protected should the marriage break down. Some of the women that MEWSO has worked with in the past, claimed to have been unaware that they were entering a polygamous marriage until it was too late; some felt as though they simply had no choice but to enter one, and some even felt pressure from their families to accept a polygamous relationship rather than face the stigma of divorce within their communities.
MEWSO’s Polygamy Matters Project aims to support these forgotten women, to educate them about their legal rights, and help them move towards independence rather than feeling trapped in a polygamous relationship, helping them to better integrate themselves into society in the process. Over the past two years, we have provided these women with counselling services, advice and guidance in welfare and legal rights in order to empower them, and also provided weekly workshops that tackled feelings of isolation and loneliness in a safe and creative environment.
Polygamy happens among the most hard-to-reach women within isolated communities. Understandably, most women living in the UK who are in polygamous relationships find it difficult and shameful to speak about such a taboo subject. These women lead almost secret lives, making polygamy so difficult to detect. That’s why in 2017, in partnership with Greenwich University, we conducted research in order to help us better detect signs of polygamy, the problems it can cause, and find ways that we can help (for more information, see our report here). Our research showed a vast range of reasons for and against entering such a marriage, but ultimately highlighted that the women in such a relationship were in a far greater position to be abused, isolated, neglected, and in some cases, abandoned.
"At MEWSo, we aim to empower the women who feel trapped in polygamous relationships."
"If we can show these women that life doesn’t have to be this way – that it doesn’t have to be in the service of a man – then we have the power to achieve something monumental."
We hope that the outcome of this campaign will impact the next generation of women and mothers whose lives will be changed for the better (to read about particular case studies, please see here). Equipping women and mothers from targeted communities with the knowledge and insight about polygamy will reduce the chances of future generations repeating the same harmful patterns. Our research shows that our work has a lasting impact on the women we help and we hope to greatly reduce the number of women entering polygamous relationships. If you or someone you know is in a polygamous relationship and would like our help, for more information, or if you would simply like to get in touch, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Contact Us page.