Although Sweden vocally disapproves of polygamy, there are still a total of 307 Swedish residents officially involved in polygamist marriages, a number which has been spurred by and is constantly rising due to immigration from Muslim countries, where polygamy is accepted. At present, though, it is possible to officially register a foreign polygamy provided that it is valid in the country of origin and that neither of the spouses has been affiliated with Sweden before the marriage, the Dagens Juridik legal newspaper reported.
In total, 169 people living in Sweden have 354 spouses registered in officially recognized polygamist marriages. Some of the women, though, have never been registered in Sweden or have emigrated. Additionally, there are about 500 instances of polygamy not accepted as legal by the authorities.
To address this growing discrepancy, the Swedish Tax Agency has in a statement called for sharpened legislation that would harmonize public records with the rules of the criminal and the marital codes. First and foremost, the agency has demanded that no forms polygamy should be accepted, regardless of where the marriage has been contracted.
Conservative Ewa Thalén Finné, a member of the Swedish parliament's civil committee called polygamy a "patriarchal structure that afflicts women," calling on the authorities to put an end to it, as promised by Immigration Minister Heléne Fritzon in 2017, the newspaper Aftonbladet reported.
There are Swedish expert lawyers who claim that polygamy may be totally disallowed using the current legislation. Göran Lind, professor of family law at Örebro University, referred to a paragraph saying that foreign marriages should be ignored if they violate the grounds of the Swedish rule of law.
"In principle, there is a little room for doing so, but there is legal uncertainty. Should we choose to go against the legal experts on this issue, the predictability of law enforcement may be reduced," Tobias Wijk of the Swedish Tax Agency told Aftonbladet.
However, there are voices in favor of polygamy as well. Islamologist Suad Mohamed, who herself comes from a family where the father had three wives, argued that polygamy should be accepted in Sweden, just as same-sex marriage. Mohamed has lived in Sweden for 32 years and describes herself as feminist.
"All Muslims who believe in the Quran and the prophet's way know that a man can have several wives," Mohamed told national broadcaster SVT.
According to Mohamed, practitioners of polygamy would still continue registering their relations abroad.
"So you could just as well make it official," Mohamed said, calling it a "hypocrisy" not to let people live as they want while it was "perfectly okay to have a wife and ten mistresses."
Polygamy may be permitted according to certain interpretations of the Quran, which allows a man to have up to four wives. The tradition is rooted primarily in Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, but also occurs in Mormon communities and among some African tribes. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center featuring Muslims from 37 countries, acceptance of polygamy is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, peaking at nine out of ten Senegalese accepting polygamy.