Polygamy in France is more spread in the imagination than it is in reality. There are still a considerable number of polygamous families living in France and this is a model that does not fit the French conception of a traditional family unit. Women and children in polygamous families are in a situation where they are doubly oppressed, by the social and economic situation in which they live and also by the French law. This is on the basis of especially inheritance and affordable access to social welfare. The law against polygamy is in theory universal and does not recognize a difference between men and women meaning that it is illegal for a man to have more than one wife and women to have more than one husband (Freedman & Tarr, 2000). In France this occurs to immigrant populations were men have several wives. Polygamy actually makes life difficult for the wives because they do not only suffer emotional and material difficulties (Freedman & Tarr, 2000). On the other hand Tiedeman (2002) says that while voicing the universal moral sentiment of a higher civilization, the law against polygamy in France likewise furnishes to society a protection against the evils arising from the degradation of its females and the protection of more children than one man is able to support (p. 896). There is no question that the system of polygamy brings about a moral degradation of the women. One of the reason why it is prohibited in France is that the wife of in a polygamous marriage cannot feel for him the Nobel and ennobling sentiment of love in its higher phase for the relation she bears to him is anything but ennobling (Tiedeman, 2002).For the evils of polygamy, it has been noted that for the accumulated experience of the oriental world confirms the injurious character of the system which the moral consciousness of the occidental world had discovered as if by inspiration (Tiedeman, 2002). Polygamy is naturally considered evil according to French laws because the law on marriage without any qualification or preliminary explanation, which defines marriage to be civil status of one man and one woman, united in law for life. Tiedeman (2002) pointed out that "there is no doubt as to the constitutionality of laws against polygamy, under the general constitutional provisions" (p. 897)
According to the article "Polygamy in France: Many wives' tales" published by the economist says that "France considers polygamy a grave infringement of the principle of equality between men and women" (2010). The principle polygamy was forbidden in 1993 when immigration laws were tightened to stop husbands bringing extra wives into the country. The article "Polygamy in Franc: Many wives' tales" further says that polygamy is widely blamed for social ills ranging from school absenteeism to street violence. Besides this Freedman & Tarr (2000) indicated that "polygamy is a real problem that women have to face because only one of the wives is recognized under French law" (p.37). They also indicated that polygamy being illegal the other wives are therefore unrecognized and live in terrible conditions. Freedman & Tarr (2000) points out that they usually do not have any residence papers and have no rights to social security.On the other hand the internal human rights law has become an increasingly pervasive factor in international family law, from the refusal to recognize institutions such as polygamy as a violation of human rights (Stark, 2005). In the international law polygamy is usually considered to adversely affect economic, social and to some extend cultural rights of wives in polygamous marriage. In this context the state of France has an obligation to protect the rights of women without violating the rights of the family unit (Stark, 2005).We can also argue that in polygamous marriage individuals find themselves facing particular weight of expectations and are under specific pressure from French society. Freedman & Tarr (2000) says that on the other hand "there are powerful forces acting to exclude these individuals from this society depending on their particular situation" (p. 15). They are considered to have broken with systems of solidarity and affiliation to construct their social position within the same setting. Women and men in polygamous institutions in France may find themselves isolated especially if they have limited command of the French language implying that they are not natives (Freedman & Tarr, 2000).
In his studies Hargreaves (1995) pointed out that family law in France is based on the premise of monogamy. Many polygamous families in France are Muslims originating in Mali and Senegal in former French West Africa. According to Hargreaves (1995) "the legal and regulatory framework in France has offered positive incentives to child bearing within polygamous marriages" (p. 114). Although polygamous marriages are considered to retain their value as status symbols, but most individual in this settings have low income and are considered to live in absolute poverty. It is also important to note that most polygamous men are poorly educated, unskilled Muslims with low incomes and large families who in some cases are housed in dense micro-concentrations.Polygamy is figured prominently in the formulation of early anthropological theories of man, kinship and culture. Zeitzen (2008) says that polygamy provides an example of a polygamous system based on a cultural foundation thus providing a window into cultural evolution undisturbed by religious belief systems. Keaton (2006) on the other hand says that African families in France the girls were frustrated by the situation of polygamy in their families. The negative impact that they had was that they were revolted by the submissiveness of their mothers while they wanted to live like girls of their age in French society.It crucial to note that polygamy has engendered a delicate situation for young people who in most cases must negotiate home traditions with homeland laws that criminalize customs such as polygamy. Keaton (2006) continues to indicate that "for young people it is part of their norm along with other practices that popular understanding considers exterior to French culture" (p. 38). According to Jules-Rosette & Njami (2000) a major issue with polygamy is that it is hard to integrate it with the existing cultural norms of the natives and therefore it is considered to be a cultural process with legal and social ramifications. The legal aspects of integrating polygamy into French culture will involve the status of citizenship and the rights and privileges that polygamy entails.Another important aspect about polygamy is that as long as there are cultural is restrictions to both private and public domain, it is harmful to the children who may not understand the basis of their difficult life encounters. Polygamy in actual sense does not guarantee freedom to the public domain for individuals especially women and children from such settings. They are still restricted through the law and economy. Also the practice creates moral and religious gaps between the natives and immigrants due to the differences relating to the mindset people from of monogamous institutions.In conclusion polygamy is prohibited in France. The laws against polygamy were enacted in 1993. Over the time the enactment of this law has faced considerable challenges because of the existing immigrants. To the women who are caught in such settings there is an indication of moral erosion although they do not have control over such situations. For the natives polygamy is not allowed under the marriage laws and therefore in most cases polygamous marriages are found in families which have migrated to France. With the evaluation of the above negative effects of polygamy in France the practice should be completely abolished as it presents a lot of challenges to individuals who find themselves in these institutions.