Cases of polygamy unchecked in several districts of Province 5Lack of stringent laws and loopholes in existing legal provisions create an encouraging environment for polygamy.
Radhika Bishwakarma’s husband, Dhak Bahadur Kami, brought home his second wife on the day of Teej this year. A resident of Belbas, Radhika filed a polygamy case against her husband and his second wife. The case is pending at the Rupandehi District Court.
Krishna Pandey’s wife, who asked her name to be withheld for privacy reasons, also recently lodged a complaint at the Area Police Office in Butwal against her husband for practising polygamy. The Pandey household was preparing for festivities on the 10th day of Dasain when Pandey walked into the house with his new wife.
“I immediately lodged a complaint at the police station,” said the first wife. Her husband and the father of their two children is since on the run along with his second wife.
Manju Shrestha of Dipnagar in Butwal is a mother of three children. Her husband, Prakash Shrestha, a foreign employment returnee, brought home a second wife with a five-month-old daughter. Manju frequented the local police station and the Office of the District Attorney to register a complaint against the new couple on polygamy charge. But she gave up her plan to file the case after learning that the five-month-old baby would be recognised as their legal offspring in accordance with the existing legal provisions. Her husband, Prakash, is currently living with his second wife while Manju and her children are living separately after taking their property share.
“Though the law states that second marriage is automatically annulled, it is indirectly recognised. Victim of polygamy like me is deprived of justice as the perpetrators give birth to a baby secretly and bring them home later,” said Manju. “The child is legally recognised as the husband’s so annulment of the second marriage is out of the question.”
A clause in the Civil and Criminal Code 2017 outlaws polygamy whereas another clause says that a couple would be deemed married if their physical relations result in childbirth.
As many as 157 cases related to polygamy were registered with the police in Province 5 in the last fiscal year. Forty-four of these cases were registered in Rupandehi alone. Thirty-four polygamy cases have been registered in Province 5 in the past two months of the current fiscal year.
According to the police, laws alone are not enough to abolish the deeply rooted social evils like polygamy. Mina Acharya, assistant sub-inspector at women and children service centre in Rupandehi, opined that cases of polygamy are unchecked mainly due to lax legal provisions.
“Social campaigns are essential to sensitise people about social evils and the authorities must introduce strong legal provisions,” she asserted.
If proven guilty of polygamy, a person is jailed for one to three years in accordance with the Civil and Criminal Code. A case related to polygamy should be filed within three months of the second marriage.