Italy: Stories of polygamous marriages

A boom in the illegal marriages is a byproduct of voluminous immigration by Muslims. Authorities largely ignore the unions, leaving the women in a murky world with no recourse when things go wrong.

A few miles from the Vatican, Najat Hadi kept house with her husband, his other wife and their assorted children, an unhappy home with a hateful woman 10 years her junior and a cruel spouse who left her with a jagged scar peeking from her collar.

Finally, she says, her Egyptian-born husband, who worked in Rome making pizzas, beat her so badly that she left him. But he kept her children.

Thousands of polygamous marriages like Hadi's have sprung up throughout Italy as a byproduct of a fast-paced and voluminous immigration by Muslims to this Roman Catholic country.

Despite the obvious culture clash, Italian authorities largely turn a blind eye, leaving women in a murky semi-clandestine world with few rights and no recourse when things go especially badly, as they did in Hadi's case.

"It is absurd that in a civilized country like Italy, so little is acknowledged about this," said Souad Sbai, a Moroccan-born Italian lawmaker who has emerged as a one-woman champion of female Muslim immigrants here.

Italy is one of several European nations faced with the issue of polygamy. In Britain and Spain, where large Muslim communities have also settled, some officials favor recognizing polygamous marriage as a way to ensure the wives' access to pensions, medical care and other state benefits.

But Sbai, who has lived 27 of her 47 years in Italy, thinks that misguided attempts at cultural sensitivity backfire when customs that stray into illegality are tolerated. Italian law sanctions marriage between a single man and a single woman only.

Sbai estimates that there are 14,000 polygamous families in Italy; others put the number even higher. Many take advantage of the so-called orfi marriage, a less formal union performed by an imam, that does not carry the same social or legal standing as regular marriage.

She is convinced that the polygamists in Italy are practicing a more fundamentalist and abusive form of multiple marriage. Because they feel so threatened by the Western culture around them, the men often imprison their wives and confine them to a life of solitude wholly dependent on the husband.

"They are kept in a kind of ghetto," Sbai said.

When Sbai recently created a hotline for Muslim immigrant women, she was inundated with 1,000 calls in the first three months. To her astonishment, she had tapped into a hidden community of women desperate for information, many trapped in violent, polygamous households, isolated and lonely.


Source: LA Times (English)

See also: Italy: Polygamous marriages on the rise, Italy: Moroccan activist claims abuse of Muslim women


Anonymous said...

Illegal immigrants are illegal immigrants are illegal immigrants. They should be entitled to medical care if they go to the emergency room with a gunshot wound to the head, and short of that, they should have no rights under the law nor should they be recognized. Not only is it the duty of the civilized world to not recognize polygamous marriages, let alone finance them through social services, but they should not recognize cousin marriages, any other kind of incestuous marriage (regardless of no blood ties due to adoption), and children from unrecognized marriages should not be recognized either. We unfortunately also recognize cousin marriage in the US, but that's about the extent of it. Illegals are allowed driver's licenses, though, which is fine with me because the state makes money on that rather than loses it.

Adam33 said...

You say so. No We Muslims will have our complete rights anywhere in Europe. Whether we are legal or illegal immigrants we can get not only our rights but our rights plus rights that are not even dreamed of by other religions or ethnis people. We have made a hare of coward Europe. We have our heel on the throat of Europe. Its politicians cannot do anything about us Muslims but obey whatever we command them whether in Italy, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Holland... etc. Just Look around you. European countries forbit polygamy but Muslims embrace it. It is everywhere. But Europe dare not even talk about it. So the law is just ink on paper. We defecate of European laws. We have our oun laws. Europe is the Sick Man whose possessions are to be divided. As the Sick Man of 1914's possessions were divided.