Polygyny and Canada's Obligations under International Human Rights Law<

September 2006

Polygyny and Canada's Obligations under International Human Rights Law ( PDF Version, 1,56MB ), PDF Help

Prepared by:
Rebecca J. Cook, M.P.A., J.D., J.S.D., F.R.S.C.
Faculty Chair in International Human Rights
Co-Director, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme
and
Lisa M. Kelly, B.A., J.D. candidate
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Presented to:
Family, Children and Youth Section
Department of Justice Canada

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Justice Canada.

This report may be reproduced, in part or in whole, and by any means, without charge or further permission from the Department of Justice Canada, provided that due diligence is exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced; that the Department of Justice Canada is identified as the source department; and that the reproduction is not represented as an official version of the original report.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, 2006

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. HARMS OF POLYGYNY
    1. Polygyny as a Form of Patriarchy
    2. The Harm of Non-Exclusivity
    3. Harms Arising from Competitive Co-Wife Relationships
    4. Mental Health Harms Associated with Polygyny
    5. Sexual and Reproductive Health Harms
    6. Economic Harms
    7. Harms to the Enjoyment of one's Citizenship
    8. Harms to Children of Polygynous Unions
  3. POLYGYNY AS A VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
    1. International Treaty and Convention Law
    2. Family Life
      1. The Right to Equality within Marriage and the Family
      2. The Right to Private and Family Life
      3. The Right to be Free from All Forms of Stereotyping
      4. The Right to Exercise Free and Full Consent in Choosing a Spouse and Entering into Marriage
    3. Security
      1. The Right to be Free from All Forms of Violence
      2. Women's Rights to be Free from Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
      3. The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health
      4. Women's Rights to be Free from Slavery
      5. The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living
    4. Citizenship
      1. The Right to Receive and Impart Information
      2. The Right to Education
      3. Women's Rights to Religious Freedom
      4. Women's Rights to Enjoy Their Culture
  4. ARGUABLE LIMITS ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS
    1. The Right to Freedom of Religion and Right to Non‑discrimination on Grounds of Religion/Ethnicity
    2. The Right to Enjoy One's Culture
    3. The Right to Respect for One's Private and Family Life
  5. STATE PRACTICE AND OPINIO JURIS
    1. Outright Prohibition
      1. Australia
      2. Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland
      3. Canada
      4. United Kingdom
      5. United States
      6. Tunisia
      7. Turkey
    2. Restrictions on Polygyny
      1. Notice Requirements
      2. Permission Requirements
      3. Polygyny in Parallel Judicial Systems
  6. MEANS CHOSEN TO PROHIBIT POLYGYNY
    1. Challenges of Transition
      1. Transitional Challenges for States Moving to Prohibit Polygyny
      2. Transitional Challenges for Individuals Leaving Polygynous Unions
    2. Balancing a Respect for Cultural and Religious Contexts with the Protection of Individual Human Rights
  7. FOSTERING COMPLIANCE WITH EQUALITY RIGHTS IN MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY
    1. Improved Dialogue
    2. Canadian Obligations under International Human Rights Law
      1. Presumption of Compliance
      2. Values and Principles of a Free and Democratic Society
    3. Monitoring of Canada's Obligations under the Women's Convention
      1. Reporting Mechanism under the Women's Convention
      2. Use of the Communications Procedure under the Optional Protocol of the Women's Convention
      3. Use of the Inquiry Procedure under the Optional Protocol of the Women's Convention
    4. Monitoring of Canada's Obligations under the Political Covenant and the Children's Convention
      1. The Human Rights Committee (HRC)
      2. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  8. CONCLUSION
  9. REFERENCES
  10. ENDNOTES
Date modified: