Activists say about a quarter of Bedouin families in Israel are polygamist.
‘Maek’, a women rights group that focuses on Arab Israelis, recently launched a campaign against polygamy in Bedouin families.
They are hoping to apply pressure on Bedouin society and Israeli authorities to stop the phenomenon. According to the group, polygamy brakes basic human rights and violates women’s dignity.
Israeli Parliament, Knesset, held a special session to discuss the implications on stranded women.
According to the NGO, Palestinian and Jordanian women are also among the victims of Bedouin Israeli men.
Polygamy was criminalised in Israel in 1977. The law introduced a punishment for up to 5 years in prison and a fine for polygamous men.
However in reality offenders are rarely prosecuted.
Many believe that denying polygamous families certain social benefits will have a bigger impacts on them than laws.
A study on polygamous families by Alean Al-Krenawi examined over 352 Bedouin Arab children- 174 from monogamous and 178 from polygamous families.
It found that Bedouin children from polygamous families in the Negev, for example, suffer from mental health issues and social difficulties more.
It says: ‘While modern polygamy has been linked with adverse health outcomes in both mothers and children, this is mainly due to the new phenomenon of paternal abandonment of the first wife and her children, which has severe socioeconomic implications for families. Mothers’ lack of economic autonomy compounds this new cultural obstacle.’
There are around 80,000 Arab Bedouins living in 36 ‘unrecognised’ villages in Israel in northern Negev.
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