IMPACT OF POLYGAMY ON WOMEN & CHILDREN & THE CONSEQUENSE OF CHILD BRIDES IN POLYGAMY
Woman and children who have escaped from polygamous families have been profoundly affected in every aspect of their lives Child Brides in Polygamy Cults. It takes an unusually strong woman and resourceful woman to successfully leave a polygamy cult. A woman who does escape has reached the limits of her capacity to endure intolerable conditions for her and her children. The obstacles in her path are unimaginable for child brides in polygamy cults. You should know that most of the information in this paper about polygamy cults comes from women who have escaped. Women still living in polygamy cults would probably be more positive about their lifestyle. One of the dire consequences of polygamy cults.
You should understand that the basic structure of polygamy is authoritarian and secretive. The men believe they have the authority to govern and control their wives and children in the family relationship. Because of the secretive nature of polygamous groups, they are usually referred to as cults. In polygamous communities, there is a hierarchy of polygamous marriages existing under the leadership of a central figure. This leader is generally referred to as “The Prophet.” One of the effects of hierarchical structure has to do with power and control. Absolute power tends to corrupt and it is not unusual for the prophet to become corrupted by the power he possesses and his desire and obsession for child brides in polygamy. This corruption extends into the power and control of polygamous husbands and fathers, who are not uncommonly guilty of abuses that could be described as domestic violence and child abuse. This corruption is also manifested by “child brides” [girls fourteen or fifteen and sometimes younger that are given in marriage}.
The following are common characteristics of polygamous cults.
1. All control belongs to a central figure. A child is responsible to his or her father and he, in turn, is responsible to the prophet. The prophet, through the father, controls when and to whom their children will marry, where the child should work, how much education the child should receive and other extra-curricular activities. The prophet can take a child or parent away and reassign him or her to new parents or a new spouse if he so chooses. He can also determine or change the rules of the society, and change them at any time without explanation.
2- Alleged Revelation from God dictates the words and acts of the prophet.
3- Relationships outside the cult are prohibited.
4- Independent thinking and outside information are shunned.
5- Non-constructive attitudes toward education. Most literature is forbidden, history is forbidden other than the history of the group’s leaders, etc., and the only needed education is to watch and follow the prophet. [As can be seen, the effect of such attitudes toward education is too narrow and confines the thinking of the follower. This ill-equips him or her to survive in mainstream society.]
6- Gestapo mentality. It is necessary to police group members to ensure compliance.
7- Personal desires are unwanted. It follows that the prophets will is an extension of God’s will, and the father’s will is that of the of the prophet. Children are taught to be rid of their personal desires and wishes.
8- Polygamous cults are a caste system. The prophet and father establish the value of wives and children. The father has a favorite wife based on her compliance with the husband’s wishes. Her sole purpose is to please her husband by doing what gives him pleasure and satisfaction. As an award for obedience and compliance, the favorite wife may have better-living conditions than the other wives. Such as a better bedroom or better clothes for her and her children.
9- Attitudes toward women as property/possessions. Before marriage, the woman has value as property bringing her father influence, power, and prestige. The woman is groomed for her relationship with the man she will marry. After a woman is married she has no value other than to produce children and bring income to the family.
The followers in polygamy are taught to not question or doubt but to follow and do the will of the leader. The control of information, education, and separation from outsiders are all done to prevent contamination of members and keep the belief system of the group intact. Propaganda concerning the evils and dangers of society further insulate the group from the outside world. Separation from the outside world and secrecy of the inside world keep the necessary barrier between the cult and society. Because of such conditions, the polygamous followers usually do not acquire the skills needed to survive in the outside world. Where a woman fits into this system probably helps explain why some women have positive reports of their experience and others have more negative reports.
Polygamy’s impact on women:
Clearly, there is a negative impact on women in such a society which is extensive. When a woman is denied personal desires, emotional expression, self-will and identity, psychological consequences can be expected. Many women when not allowed to assert their desires suffer from anxiety, depression and low esteem.
Anxiety often results from a loss of control over her life; depression from feeling powerless to make a difference; and low self-esteem from lack of appreciation of herself as an individual. Learned helplessness is real phenomena in which one learns that one’s actions have little impact on the outcome and they can do little to escape undesirable conditions. When one is suffering from learned helplessness, it is only a matter of time until one gives up.
Polygamy’s impact on children
Child brides are a consequence of polygamy, as young girls are forced into marriage with no choices. At the same time, older boys are expelled from the community to rid the colony of competition for the young girls. The boys are ill prepared to survive in the outside world and the girls are ill prepared for marriage. The girls are forced into marriage with older men and have no choice in the matter and some are even as young as 12 years. They have not had experiences that would ready them for marriage and at a young age, they are not mature enough to avoid having medical problems in child delivery.
Other ramifications for children are:
a) Harsh physical discipline can be employed to control and manage children. Religious ideology provides a rationale for physical punishment which can become a rationalization for child abuse.
b) Because of suspicion and a need to preserve privacy, there is often a rejection of medical intervention and other social services a child may need.
c) Since the polygamous society functions as a closed and often physically isolated society, there is a resistance of investigation of possible child abuse. There is limited interaction with the mainstream of society which tends to close off the normal means by which authorities learn of child abuse and neglect. Their religious nature makes it possible to avoid scrutiny because they can invoke the 1st Amendment in order to stop investigative efforts.
d) The child’s educational experience is narrowed and limited, rendering the childless prepared to function in society.