May 2 2010
Gee, I wonder if these are the people Obama is inviting to his Muslim entrepreneur summit?
PARIS (AP) – The burqa, or face-covering veil, is getting all the attention in the debate over Muslim immigrants in France. But another controversial tradition among some immigrants is less noticed and far more widespread: Polygamy.
The issue resurfaced last week after a woman received a traffic citation in the western city of Nantes for driving with a veil over her face. Officials then accused her husband of having at least three other wives, and said he may be profiting from them financially while the state pays the bill.
Polygamy is one of several issues, like forced marriage or genital mutilation, that France and other European nations face, as immigrants arrive with customs that conflict with the law of the land. But experts say polygamy in France can also be linked to fraud, where husbands hijack a generous social welfare system to line their pockets with state funds from each of their wives.
“They practice polygamy just for that,” said Jean-Marie Ballo, founder of an association that helps women escape from polygamous situations, Nouveaux Pas, or New Steps. “I’d go so far as to say that polygamists here (in France) are breeding for cash.” Ballo said he’s even aware of cases where a legal wife’s papers are used for hospital care for a second – a health risk as medical records intermingle.
It’s hard to count how many polygamous families live in France because of the secrecy of the practice. But the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights in a 2006 report made a minimal estimate of 16,000 to 20,000 polygamous families in France, or some 180,000 people, including children. That compares to fewer than 2,000 women who are thought to wear burqa-style garments.
For decades, polygamy was legal in France for immigrants arriving from any of about 50 countries where it is legally recognized. France banned polygamy in 1993. But abuses thrive. Especially vulnerable are women who arrived in France after 1993 – often here illegally and, therefore, with limited means to extricate themselves. READ MORE: LINK
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