from transcripts of Dec 7, 2010
BC Supreme court - reference regarding Section 293 (Polygamy Law)
The Christian Legal Fellowship called Dr. Shoshana Grossbard to the stand. She is a professor of economics at San Diego State University specializing in labour economics, law and economics of household, economics of marriage including polygamy, gender studies, sociological and anthropological economics. Dissertation at University of Chicago was on the economics of polygamy based on a study of polygynous households in Nigeria. Published 6 articles and a chapter in a book on economics in marriage on the subject of the economics of polygamy.
Dr. Grossbard indicated that she was familiar with polygamy as practiced in most African countries, a majority of Asian countries and some parts of the Americas - North America in particular. Polygamy is found just in certain areas of some countries as a cultural phenomenon limited to certain tribes , certain ethnic groups or associated with certain religions. Muslims in African Arab countries, Canada, US & France; Christians (FLDS) US and Canada; and only amongst the Jews of Kortistan or Yemen as it is illegal in Israel. Mainly a cultural phenomena that is associated with religion. Dr. Grossbar was only familiar with FLDS in US and had not heard of Bountiful before becoming involved in this court case.
Dr. Grossbard discussed the theory of marriage market economics where by the demand for wives by men and the supply of wives by women is thrown when polygamy is introduced to the marriage market. The demand for wives increases but the supply remains the same which should make the women more valuable. The practice of paying a bride price is more common in polygamous societies than monogamous societies. This is where the men pay the woman's father at the time of marriage so the increased value doesn't benefit the woman and the men maintain control of the women as they negotiate the transactions. Female circumcision is also used in large parts of Africa to control women so that they don't dispute the amount of attention they get in a polygynous household. Muslim law has easy divorce for men with no rights to custody of the children to the divorced wife thereby controlling women who might be dissatisfied and making them afraid to complain or leave. Arranged marriages and young brides with older husbands maintains the supply of wives favouring arranged marriages and discouraging the ideal of romantic love so that the expectations of the women for a spouse are lower. The Muslim custom of perda or isolating the women from the outside world was also a way of controlling them that is seen worldwide in non-Muslim polygamous communities. The ability of women to participate in the labour market is limited and often non-existent. Dr. Grossbard noted studies that show a significantly higher prevalence of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and a number of other mental illnesses amongst the senior wives in polygamous societies comparative to monogamous societies. This study was of Bedouins and the Palestinians of the Gaza and West Bank.
Dr Grossbard said that customs have been developed which are aimed at alleviating the problems caused by polygamy such as the Islamic prohibition on Muslim men having more than four wives. Other cultures institute a rotation schedule so to minimize the jealousy among the co-wives, senior wives may have specific roles or separate dwellings. In some societies the wives are real [natural born] sisters. Early widowhood and the availability of another husband to reassign the widow to or she will have no support is a problem. Lack of education for women especially but in general their is high fertility and the resources are spent on the quantity of children rather than investing in quality human capital. Related health problems, high mortality rates and limited literacy.
Justice Bauman asked Dr. Grossbard some questions with regards to the cultural or religious basis of polygamy in Africa and Muslim countries in particular. Dr. Grossbard said that Islam doesn't encourage polygamy but rather tolerates it. Muslim men then practice it despite their religion.
One of the lawyers on the Amicus' legal team covered cross-examination of this witness. He asked if Dr. Grossbard had conducted field research in Nigeria, Bountiful, Canada or North America. Dr. Grossbard said that she didn't conduct any field research as an Economist she would do her analysis based on the data collected by others. The Amicus asked what research or evidence was there that if polygamy were permitted in Canada there would be more of it as the doctor had stated and further what evidence was there in the doctor's report that prohibiting polygamy would decrease it - given that it was illegal now and still practiced.
The Amicus noted a section in the doctor's report where it was stated that in an industrial society there would be less demand for a polygamous scenario than in an agricultural society. He referred to a paper cited in Dr. Grossbards report that concluded that the personal incentives to become polygynous decline naturally with development as the ability to raise educated children and invest in human capital becomes more possible with a less intensive need to produce home products. Men will then seek out wives who can help them do that and naturally incline to monogamy. Dr. Grossbard then disputed the paper's validity and said she had only cited as reference to part of their argument and that she disageed with the author of the paper's conclusions.
Given the more prevalence of polygamy in less developed countries, the Amicus, asked Dr. Grossbard if there would then also be a greater prevalence of poor health, lower education, lower life expectancy, fewer civil liberties, gender inequality? Dr. Grossbard agreed that they would be associated with economic development but that doesn't mean they don't accompany polygamy although one can't say that they are caused exclusively by it.
On the point of early widowhood and financial hardship for the women, the Amicus asked if the removal of the male bread winner of a polygamous household because of imprisonment would increase the likelihood of financial hardship for the women in that polygamous relationship. The doctor agreed that this would be a negative factor. Several other points with regards to easy divorce, and arranged marriages were raised with regards to their prevalence in monogamous relationships in countries where polygamy is legal and in North American society where they have a different context entirely. The doctor stated that her sources about female circumcision were not Canadian but that there are cases of female circumcision in Canada mostly among immigrants from Africa.
Dr. Zheng Wu, professor of sociology at the University of Victoria was called to the stand by the Amicus. Dr. Wu's specialty is family demography which is the study of events in the family from marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce, widowhood, child battering, child rearing and the well-being of family members. He has published a book on about cohabitation as an alternative form of family living and various articles on marriage, divorce, health and aging, immigration, medical sociology and mental health.
Dr. Wu's affidavit is a report of the demographic profile of conjugal life in Canada over the last several decades. His conclusion was that marriage although still a valid social institution has weakened with a delay and decline in marriage a high level or marital instability and a rise in non-marital cohabitation or common law unions. Most of his data was from Statistics Canada which in Dr. Wu's opinion is high quality data and the best possible in this country.
His report notes:
1. Spousal abuse and child abuse rates in Canada - a relative small percentage of criminal spousal violence gets reported to the police. According to available statistics 75,000 incidents of violent crime were committed against a family member in 2007, 40,000 were committed by a current/previous spouse or common law partner. There were 6,600 incidents of violent crimes were committed against a child within the family. Seven percent of Canadians who are married or live common law have experienced spousal abuse in the past five years. That's about 650,000 women and 540,000 men who have been victims of spousal violence. Predominantly monogamous relationships. Two percent of Canadians aged 18 to 59 (346,000 in 2005) identify themselves as being gay, lesbian or bisexual. In 2006, there were 1.4 million single parent families in Canada. 80 percent (1.1 million) were single mother homes and 20 percent single father homes. Also in 2006 census, there werer 4.8 million single/never married men and 4.3 single/never married women over age 15 living in Canada. There are, then, 550,000 more single/never married men than women. The same census showed 905,000 divorced men and 1.2 million divorced women. About 10,000 divorces occur annually in British Columbia. One third of marriages in Canada end in divorce within 30 years of initiation while 40 percent of marriages in BC end in divorce within 30 years of initiation. The average Canadian women has 1.59 children in her lifetime. The average Canadian man has 1.35 children in his lifetime. 5.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women are living with step-children.
Cross-examination by the BC AG was quite confusing focusing on areas that Dr. Wu declared no expertise and would comment only broadly or not at all. He was pretty focused on the decline of marriage not being so dramatic when one included common law relationships and LAT (where people maintain relationships but don't live together). Dr. Wu was unable to do any comparative analysis of polygamy or its impact as there is no data with Stats Canada. The AG of Canada's cross was a good half hour of discussion on the terminology of common law marriage, common law relationships and cohabitation.
The stats on spousal/family violence are very very sad and not at all surprising. The fact that so many men are victims of spousal violence is an important point that goes by the wayside with the focus on women and children. Male victims have a whole different set of issues when seeking help in Canadian society.