Why is Bigamy Still a Crime in England Today?
Bigamy and polygamy are criminal offences in the United Kingdom, the United States and the former colonial countries that were strongly influenced by catholic christianity. This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the World and most of recorded history where it is a perfectly legitimate form of marriage and remains a lifestyle choice. The UK is the only country in the World which regularly prosecutes this offence through the criminal courts. With the introduction and rise of the Human Rights Act this anomaly may well come unstuck once it is properly challenged. In the UK the penalty is 7 years in prison and/or a fine. This law is taken from the Middle ages when it was made a crime by the puritans in the Bigamy Act of 1603 (who attempted to make their particular view of christian morality enforceable in law see
wikipedia), a time when divorce was only possible with a parliamentary decree. The strong penalties for polygamy and enforcement of monogamy were the fearful reactions of primarily the Catholic and in turn the Protestant churches, to incursions into Central Europe by Islamic states in the 16th century and also the advent of colonial activities by European nations into America, Africa and other territories where polygamous cultures were frequently encountered.
At the same time adultery was a criminal offence which of course was totally unenforceable as was witchcraft and dozens of other human activities and demeanors. By the Victorian era there were an unbelievable 222 capital offences in the UK at that time (including for example pickpocketing) in what became known as the bloody code.
Now when approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce and with the decline of the Church’s power to control people’s lives, the World is a very different place. The 1603 Act wording remained unchanged when made into the s57 of 1861 Offences Against The Persons Act which remains in use today 152 years later. This is in sharp contrast to many offences considered far more serious at the time such as homosexuality or abortion which were crimes punishable by death. The same 1861 Act makes homosexuality a crime with “only” a life sentence and not the death penalty. Many sections of this act have long been repealed including sections 61 buggery and 63 “carnal knowledge”, ie sexual intercourse or adultery.
The UK crime of bigamy is also virtually unique among criminal laws in that no matter where in the World it is committed it is considered an offence regardless of whether it is legal to do so or not in that country. If you are a UK national then this law respects no other jurisdictions where polygamy is not only not a crime but a legitimate form of marriage. However the illogical nonsense of the act is that it is unfairly used against UK nationals when at the same time non – UK nationals are not bound by it even if they are living in the UK. This is a highly arbitrary form of discriminatory akin to racism. No one expects to drive on an autobahn in Germany (with no speed limit) and on their return to the UK to be charged with breaking the UK’s 70 mph speed limit. Unbelievably that is how this act works and is unfairly used against offenders who are “meant to know better”. One final piece of weird discrimination in this lamentable law is that it allows anyone who has not seen their first marriage partner for more than 7 years to not be considered as committing the crime. But why 7 years and not 10 years, 3 years, 6 months or even 1 day? Who knows what was in the crazy minds of those who framed this law, and whatever it was valid or not it will certainly have changed in the intervening 400 years.
Not only it the act illogical, nonsensical and discriminatory in nature but it reflects a world that was very different 400 years ago. Whilst other “more serious” offences have been repealed this law remains on the statue books and is regularly used by Police at the bequest of the UK Border Agency. It is used to bolster immigration law and to generate multiple offences out of any infringements. If is really farcical that people are regularly arrested in the middle of the night like terrorists, and convictions brought against them whilst at the same time financial benefits are given to multiple the wives of polygamists who are legitimately allowed to come to the UK and claim them. Visiting heads of state from many countries are periodically welcomed with all of their wives, something that a UK national would be fined and imprisoned for – what hypocrisy!.
Under UK law any public pronouncement of marriage is considered legal but no similar public pronouncement of divorce is permitted. Under Muslin law however it is and whilst I am not a Muslim it does seem logical and sensible that if marriage is being given a special status that the same rules going in and going out of it should apply to be consistent, logical and fair, ie a public pronouncement. The time is well overdue to scrap this medieval law to bring freedom to those who want to remarry without having to wait years for a divorce first. Polygamy needs to be legalised. This is especially true in a global society where human relationships often span countries and where visas are made increasingly difficult to get making it difficult if not impossible for genuine couples to live together in the UK. People should be free to remain married to multiple husbands or wives. That is what this campaign is dedicated to doing.
Fifty years ago we locked up one of Britain’s greatest scientists, the inventor of the computer, for being gay – Alan Turin. Something which directly led to his depression and premature death. We look back in disgust and shame that we allowed that to happen to such a great man and yet something equally bad and immoral continues to happen on a daily basis to those arrested and charged with bigamy. It is time to stop this evil and immoral crusade by the UK Border Agency which is the only government body pushing and abusing the criminal “justice” system to prosecute offenders using these ancient 1861 and 1603 Acts.
The “sanctity of marriage” and the Bible
But what about the sanctity of marriage I hear you cry? Well if that ever existed it ended long ago and even more so now with David Cameron’s talk of gay marriage. With large percentages of the population not even bothering to get married and those that do half end in divorce there is no precious sanctity of marriage apart from maybe for a lucky few. Children are born to couples in and out of wedlock as well as to serial monogomists and are even now allowed to gay couples. With these changes society hasn’t disintegrated as many feared. The sanctity of marriage is never mentioned in the Bible. What is mentioned is that God’s high and unattainable ideal standards are set as one man – on woman in marriage. This is to be lauded and aimed for but when it is not achieved there is no teaching to punish the offenders, which amounts to large proportions of the population. Very early on in Genesis we see all the great patriachs from Abraham onwards having many wives which God not only allows and even approves of as a sign of His prosperity. The 10 commandments do not forbid polygamy and neither did Jesus. They both did say that adultery is wrong and yet we have no law against sex outside of or before marriage, so why do we have laws against something that the Bible doesn’t teach as wrong, ie polygamy but don’t have laws against something that it clearly does teach is wrong – how illogical and inconsistent is that? When Jesus met the woman at the well who had had 5 husbands he did not criticise her or condemn her, neither did he do so with the woman accused of adultery who was brought to him to be stoned – he simply said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” to which everyone in the baying crowd simply melted away. In fact Jesus went a big step further and stated that anyone who hates in their heart is a murderer and anyone who lusts after someone is an adulterer. He didn’t campaign for new laws to punish us all for crimes of the heart but lifted the lid on human morality and weakness and provided a way through to deal with it that is the very core basis for christianity.
There is thus nothing in the Bible which would lead one to believe that multiple marriages are a crime or even an offense and yet the puritans in 1603 somehow managed to twist it along with many other acts onto the UK statute book where it has remained ever since. In fact many believe the complete opposite that the Bible actually teaches and promotes polygamy and that polygamy provides a lot of good for society. For further research on what the Bible says about this topic please visit here and for more on the law on bigamy in other countries click here.
Bigamy is just a paperwork offence against the state
It is estimated that there are at least 25,000 polygamous families in the UK. Note that a polygamous lifestyle is not a criminal offence – it is only when one or more of the marriages is registered that it becomes so. Just how many of this figure are breaking the law is anyone’s guess and it is yet another reason why this law is a complete joke and needs to be scrapped. For those that are properly registered and then for whatever reason decide to deregister (ie obtain a divorce) they have to suffer endless months and large costs crawling through the divorce courts until they are legally able to do so and be free to marry again. Once a marriage is finished in reality and the parties are in the divorce courts why is it even then still considered an offence?
Normally for a crime an injured party is required, not so with bigamy. Here the only “injured” party is the state because their piece of paper ie the divorce certificate, was not issued on a timely or immediate basis and before a name is added to a government register (the marriage register). And for what reason? Originally it was some possibly unrealistic moral basis dreamed up by the puritans (which like many of their ideas failed) but now is used that to control behaviour of the citizens and make up pretend crimes. This is what you would expect when living under a communist dictatorship not in a free and modern country. In reality there is no longer any moral basis to make it a crime. This crime is now simply one of not filling in a government register correctly – is that really what people should be sent to prison for 7 years for? We don’t do it for cars, TV’s, houses, or dogs so why with marriages? People should be free to marry whoever they want, whenever they want, without restriction or fear of prison or any other penalty and to likewise be able to divorce instantly. Not something the lawyers, and to a lesser extent the UKBA, police and CPS who have made a lucrative industry out of marriage, divorce and polygamy, want to hear. What sort of moral and legal system is it that only reforms laws that are being broken by large numbers of people such as abortion and homosexuality whilst ignores lesser laws since they are broken by fewer people? Polygamists are a perfectly valid minority that are respected and thought to be good for society in mnay if not most parts of the World who need protecting not exploiting by the law and criminal justice system.
Call for action
This evil, immoral, unfair and outdated medieval law is a nonsense and needs to be urgently abolished. The UK is now almost alone in being the only Western country that regularly prosecutes anyone for this, even the transitionally hard-line states of Utah and Canada are in the process of changing their laws. This vindictive behaviour comes from the UK Border Agency who (quite apart from being regularly deemed unfit for purpose by anyone who audits their work) simply want to increase the offence count against their victims when they already have sufficient and very strong laws to deal with any miscalcitrants. It unnecessarily makes criminals out of otherwise law abiding and decent people such as Pervez Chaudry the former conservative party chairman in Slough – see full story.
We are looking for a public figure to articulate and lead the campaign as well as funding and sponsorship to promote our cause and bring pressure to bear on parliament to abolish this ridiculous medieval law and stop the harassment and bullying of otherwise law-abiding citizens. We have just started and need to form into a proper pressure group with a committee to organise, run and fund it. If you would like to help then please get in touch with us below.
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