Have a wife, or maybe a few: New ads have been popping up in local Bedouin newspapers throughout the Negev recently. The ads suggest that Bedouin women who are in their thirties and single try polygamous marriage as a solution to their "problem."
As polygamy is illegal in Israel, the people behind the ad campaign refuse to reveal their identities, but sign the ad as The Negev Committee for Women's Rights.
Even though polygamy is illegal and anyone marrying more than one woman is in danger of being arrested, the fact is that the law is hardly ever enforced. An ad featured in Rahat's Al Haddat newspaper states that the purpose of the campaign is to help women who have passed the 30-year mark and are having trouble finding a groom.
The ad also stated that according to Islamic law, marrying a second and even a third wife is an extremely effective solution for single women in their thirties.
The ad shows a 34-year-old Bedouin woman who tells of how she feels that her "future is bleak" because all of her friends are already married and she doesn't know if she will ever be able to experience motherhood. The question "What is the solution for 7,514 women in the Negev who are over 30 and still single?" was spread underneath her picture with an answer already included: "polygamy, the Sharia solution".
The ad's initiators shared an important stipulation – polygamy was allowed if a man can treat each wife equally. Those who cannot should not marry more than one woman. In addition to polygamy being illegal in Israel, the ad campaign itself is illegal because it encourages illegal activities. Various sources within the Bedouin community claim that the phenomenon has seen a worrying increase in recent years.
Attorney Rawia Aburabia of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who frequently lectures about the status of Bedouin women, in a forum on co-existence in the Negev stated that there was a 30%-40% rise in the number of polygamous marriages.
"Polygamy is a practice that oppresses everybody – women, children and men." According to Aburabia, the ad campaign comes as "a response to a major campaign against Polygamy which is being carried out by a number of equality and civil rights organizations."
The ad includes an email, but publisher remains anonymous
Polygamy also causes negative social trends within the Bedouin community. Among other things, mean who marry more than one woman 'import' women from Gaza and the West Bank so that the act is, when all is said and done – human trafficking. Polygamous marriages incur additional felonies, such as fictive divorces and national insurance fraud.
A central problem which the authorities deal with in efforts to enforce the law, is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to prove that any crime has been committed.
Meanwhile, it is unclear exactly who is behind the ad campaign, and all attempts to contact its initiators have failed. The ad includes a contact email but so far, Ynet has received no response. The editor of the newspaper in which the ad appeared said that the publishers wished to remain anonymous.
Police waiting for instructions
The southern region's prosecution said that they were well aware of the problem and noted: "This isn't a singular case; this is a social trend, which needs to be dealt with in a systematic and comprehensive manner.
"Over the last few months' discussions attended by officials including the southern region civil prosecutor, the southern region criminal prosecutor, additional representatives from the state prosecution, police representatives and other government officials were held for that purpose."
Referring to the polygamy trend the southern region police department stated that: "A Justice Ministry committee is discussing forming directives for law enforcement methods, the police will operate in accordance with the directives it receives."
Hassan Shaalan contributed to this report
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