A few years ago, Sweden’s Center Party, one of the four parties in the center-right governing coalition at the time, proposed legalizing polygamy. The idea caused outrage; the proposal was dropped. The party’s youth division, however, refused to let go: “We think it is important for the individual to decide how many people he or she wants to marry,” said Hanna Wagenius, head of Center Youth, predicting that polygamy would be legal in ten years, when her generation would enter parliament and make sure of it.
Sweden is not the only place in Scandinavia where “idealistic” youths have advocated polygamy. In 2012, the youth division of Denmark’s Radikale Venstre Party (“Radical Left”), then part of the governing coalition in Denmark, also proposed that polygamy should be legalized in Denmark. The move came four years after an Iraqi asylum seeker, who had worked for the Danish military in Iraq as a translator and then fled to Denmark, arrived with two wives. As Denmark does not recognize bigamy and as he refused to divorce his second wife, he returned to Iraq. “It is unacceptable that we are so narrow-minded in Denmark, and will not help a man who has helped us. We want to do something about that,” Ditte Søndergaard, head of Radikale Venstre Youth, said at the time. The proposal, however, did not find favor with any of the other political parties.
As far-fetched as these proposals may sound, they signify the shifts taking place in the West regarding fundamental ethical issues of gender equality and the willingness to accommodate Islamic sharia law. They are also proof of an enduring willful blindness to the detrimental effects of the practice of polygamy, not only in terms of financial costs to the state, but also to the Muslim women and children, whose rights these young politicians purport to support.
Muslim polygamy is only rarely debated in the media. The practice, therefore, despite its spread across the European continent — spanning, among other countries, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands — continues largely to hide under the public radar. As the practice is illegal across the continent and therefore not supposed to exist, there are no official statistics of polygamous marriages anywhere in Europe.