Government silence on legalisation demands
Spain is not the only country in the European Union that has had to deal with the question of polygamy among its foreign nationals.25 February 2008
MADRID - Spain is not the only country in the European Union that has had to deal with the question of polygamy among its foreign nationals. In Britain, comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams two weeks ago about the inevitability of British law having to accept some aspects of Sharia, or Islamic law, have sparked a lively debate.
France and Italy are also discussing the question of the legal ramifications of practices and traditions that stand outside national jurisprudence. In both countries, censuses show that there are tens of thousands of men with more than one wife. Some groups have called for changes to the law to deal with the situation.
In Spain, Muslim leaders have called for polygamy on the part of Muslims to be accepted within Spanish law. They argue that such a move would be no different to the recent legislation permitting same-sex marriage.
The government has kept out of the debate for the moment. But Octavio Granados, the head of the Social Security department, is worried. "This is a complicated matter based on two opposing principles: protecting the families who are dependent on the deceased worker; and not accepting a practice that is contrary to the rights of women," he says.
"This is why, over the last 25 years, we have never legally accepted polygamy, and dealt with disputes over pension rights on a case-by-case basis, along the lines of other European countries, and which can be modified in accordance with any decision by the courts," Granados explains.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / Juan González Bedoya 2008]