The Geographical Extent of Western Mainstream Polygamy: Europe, North America, and Latin America

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Anthropology book series (BRIEFSANTHRO, volume 2)


We leave the French and examine whether, elsewhere in the West, polygamy has also been unknowingly allowed through the eradication of the pariah status of non-marital children. The European Court of Human Rights imposes that no discrimination in birth-status rights be made between marital and non-marital children, adulterine or not, incestuous or not. Some countries have already implemented such dispositions. Consequently, Europe is in the process of generalizing the freedom to practise mainstream polygamy. In the United States, the final word on parentage laws belongs to local states. Fortunately, the Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit organization, proposes a model Uniform Parentage Act. Some states enact the model proposed; others prefer to pass their own legislation trying to reflect what is requested in the model. The UPA indirectly imposes no discrimination between marital and non-marital children. Wherever local states have enacted the UPA without major changes we may safely assume that freedom to practice mainstream polygamy has been unintentionally granted. However, this is less certain when a local state has legislated on its own. For example, Georgia allows polygamy for unwed males or females, for adulterers but not for adulteress. Polyamory studies suggest that 3.5 % of the population may be polygamous. Guatemala preceded Europe in eliminating the pariah status of non-marital children. By 1945, it allowed for unmarried and married men to practice polygyny. Polygynous unions may be up to 18 %. In 2001, Columbia decriminalized bigamy. In both Latin cases, documents consulted did not allow to assert whether polyandry was also made possible. The chapter invites researchers to expend the scope of the study and provides the paradigms for doing so.


Married Woman Civil Code Illegitimate Child Conjugal Relationship Uniform Parentage 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Concordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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