Countries Where Polygamy Is Legal 2021

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Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse at the same time. Polygyny is when a man is married to multiple wives at a time, and polyandry refers to when a woman is married to multiple husbands. If a marriage has multiple husbands and wives, it can be referred to as a group marriage.

In contrast to polygamy is monogamy, which is a marriage consisting of only two spouses.

Religious Views on Polygamy

Religions have differing views on marriage and polygamy. For example, because Buddhism does not regard marriage as a sacrament and only a secular affair, forms of marriage vary by country. For example, Thailand legally recognized polygamy in 1955, and Myanmar outlawed polygyny in 2015.

In Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church condemns polygamy. The Lutheran Church accepts some polygamists. The Anglican Communion ruled that polygamy was permissible in certain circumstances in 1988.

In Islam, a Muslim man may have more than one wife at the same time, up to four wives, according to Islamic marital jurisprudence.

Hinduism allows polygamy with circumstances. For example, traditional Hindu law allowed polygamy if the first wife could not bear a son. Additionally, Balinese Hinduism allows for sanctioned and unrestricted polygamy, but the marriage is regulated by adat or traditional customs.

In the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormons practiced polygamy from 1847 to 1857. The U.S. government made polygamy illegal in response to the LDS Church, and the church outlawed the practice in 1890. Some small groups that split from the LDS Church still practice polygamy.

Legality of Polygamy Around the World

Around the world, the legal status of polygamy varies. Societies either outlaw, accept or encourage polygamy.

In those countries that accept or encourage polygamy, polygyny is most common. In countries where marriage is legally monogamous, de facto polygamy is allowed if adultery is not illegal. In this case, there would be no legal recognition for non-official “spouses.”

In every country in North America and South America, polygamy is illegal, and practice is criminalized. In the United States, polygamy is illegal in all 50 states; however, in February 2020, the Utah House and Senate reduced punishment for polygamy to the status of a traffic ticket.

All of Europe and Oceania, except for the Solomon Islands, do not recognize polygamist marriages. In Australia, polygamous marriage is outlawed, but polygamous relationships are common within some indigenous Australian communities.

In Indonesia, polygamy is legal in some areas, such as in Bali, Papua, and West Papua. Balinese Hinduism allows for polygamy, which has been practiced for centuries by the Balinese and Papuans. Protests to outlaw polygamy and polygamous marriages occurred in 2008 in Indonesia, but no action has happened.

In India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, the governments only recognize polygamous marriages for Muslims. They have specific legislation for polygamous marriage that only includes Muslims.

Some countries that have outlawed polygamy may recognize polygamous marriages from other countries. For example, Sweden recognizes polygamous marriage performed abroad. Switzerland outlawed polygamy, but polygamous marriage conducted in another country is handled on a case-by-case basis. Polygamous marriages entered into abroad in Australia are recognized for limited purposes only.

Countries Where Polygamy Is Legal 2021

Country Population 2021
Indonesia276,361,783
Pakistan225,199,937
Nigeria211,400,708
Bangladesh166,303,498
Egypt104,258,327
Iran85,028,759
Tanzania61,498,437
Kenya54,985,698
Uganda47,123,531
Sudan44,909,353
Algeria44,616,624
Iraq41,179,350
Afghanistan39,835,428
Morocco37,344,795
Saudi Arabia35,340,683
Yemen30,490,640
Cameroon27,224,265
Sri Lanka21,497,310
Mali20,855,735
Zambia18,920,651
Syria18,275,702
Senegal17,196,301
Chad16,914,985
Somalia16,359,504
Guinea13,497,244
South Sudan11,381,378
Jordan10,269,021
United Arab Emirates9,991,089
Togo8,478,250
Libya6,958,532
Lebanon6,769,146
Republic Of The Congo5,657,013
Oman5,223,375
Central African Republic4,919,981
Mauritania4,775,119
Kuwait4,328,550
Qatar2,930,528
Gambia2,486,945
Gabon2,278,825
Bahrain1,748,296
Swaziland1,172,362
Djibouti1,002,187
Bhutan779,898
Solomon Islands703,996
Maldives543,617
Brunei441,532
Sao Tome And Principe223,368

Countries Where Polygamy Is Legal 2021