A judge in British Columbia has ruled that the laws criminalizing polygamy in Canada are not unconstitutional. He makes one exception–minors who enter polygamous unions cannot be prosecuted.
In the process of this trial, and impressive assembly of arguments, old and new, were raised against polygamy.
The judge was particularly impressed with a literature review and statistical analysis conducted by Prof. Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at Brown University:
Among McDermott’s conclusions:
Based on the best data available to date in the world, including the majority of countries across the globe, I find that in polygynous societies, women sustain more physical and sexual abuse. They have more children, are more likely to die in childbirth, and live shorter lives than their counterparts in more monogamous societies. In polygynous societies, women are more subject to sex trafficking and female genital mutilation while receiving less equal treatment than men, and encountering more discrimination under the law. In addition, girls are less likely to be educated, restricting a key component allowing for upward mobility and economic independence. In societies with high rates of polygyny, up to half of the boys are ejected from their primary communities, with incalculable effects on them. Moreover, the average individual in a polygynous society has fewer liberties than the average individual in a state which prohibits polygyny. A polygynous state spends more on average on defense, leaving fewer resources available for building domestic infrastructure, including projects devoted to health and education. This is quite a diverse set of effects, confirming the wide-ranging consequences of polygyny in societies in which women live as enforced second class citizens, and the states of which they are a part. . . .
More generally, while some individuals certainly claim to benefit from being in a polygynous union, there has been no statistical demonstration that polygyny benefits most men or women, boys or girls or society considered as a whole. Nor are any such effects manifest in the vast majority of the peer-reviewed literature examining a smaller number of cases than would be permitted by statistical analysis. Perhaps such a defence of polygyny, unlikely though it may be, could be made and supported with data meeting the standards which we advocate – verifiable, comprehensive, valid, and reliable. But for now it is fair to state that while polygyny’s negative effects are wide-ranging, statistically demonstrated, and independently verified using alternative analytical tools, its beneficial consequences are circumscribed and at odds with the welfare of most.