Kathmandu, August 21
Sheela (name changed), a 32-year-old woman of Kathmandu, filed a polygamy charge against her husband at the Metropolitan Police Range, Teku in June. Subsequently, police arrested her husband and produced the accused before the Kathmandu District Court which sentenced him to one-and-a-half years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs 15,000.
According to statistics with the Metropolitan Police Office, Kathmandu recorded as many as 54 cases of polygamy in the fiscal year 2014-15 compared to 44 in 2013-14 and 39 in 2012-13.
Though polygamy is restricted and made punishable under the existing laws, it has long been hidden and prevalent in the country. Chapter on Marriage of the General Code (Muluki Ain) states that ‘no male shall marry another female or keep a woman as an additional wife during the life-time of his wife or where the conjugal relation with his first wife is not dissolved unless his wife has any incurable contagious venereal disease, is incurably insane, is infertile and becomes blind of both eyes’.
A police official said general awareness about their rights has encouraged the victims to come forward and report the issue to police, showing an upward trend in polygamy. “It is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban ones,” he informed.
If any person concludes another marriage or keeps wife in contravention of the law, he will be liable to imprisonment for a term from one to three years and to a fine of Rs 5,000-Rs 25,000. If a woman knowingly concludes such marriage or becomes wife, that woman shall also be accordingly subject to punishment. However, the law does not invalidate the second marriage itself.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey, 2011, majority of Nepali women and men are in monogamous unions. Four per cent of married women and two per cent of married men are in polygamous unions.
A version of this article appears in print on August 22, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.