Germany to crack down on unofficially tolerated polygamy

Germany is set to clamp down on religious polygamy and marriages involving minors.

Polygamy in Germany is already illegal, but Justice Minister Heiko Maas wants to make the move towards Germany officially not tolerating polygamous marriages.

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Maas did not propose any measures that could be implemented to limit polygamy.

The Justice Minister said: “No one who comes to us has the right to put their cultural roots, or their religious beliefs, above our laws, for that reason multiple marriages cannot be recognised in Germany.”

Maas designed the move to prevent people from committing to more than one relationship. He also wants to stop authorities from turning a blind eye.

Polygamy is not just illegal in Germany, it is a criminal offence. But whilst these relationships are outlawed, they are quietly tolerated by local councils.

It’s not just polygamy Maas attacked. Arranged and forced marriages and marriages of minors are being cracked down on.

“We have to assess this very carefully,” he said. “We cannot tolerate forced marriages.”

No law presently exists to protect minors who have been married, but courts are able to make case-by-case decisions.

The move has been criticised by many women’s rights movements, including Terre Des Femmes, because it will leave many women without a financial clutch. If a marriage dissolves between a man and an unofficial wife, the woman may face difficulty in getting alimony because the marriage was never recognised.

In some Islamic countries men are allowed to have up to four wives.

Authorities are already unable to register more than one wife to the same man. This causes difficulties when some wives become listed as single mothers, and when distributing inheritance.

The decision comes as Germany sees an influx of immigrants from the Syrian crisis. The country accepted 1.1 million immigrants last year – nearly double the number of the previous year.