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No more than one wife: Israel looks to tackle Bedouin polygamy

Published: Updated:

Israel has begun cracking down on polygamy among the country’s Bedouins, after decades of turning a blind eye to the old custom that remains widespread in the community.

For the first time, suspected Bedouin polygamists are being prosecuted.

But many Bedouins, who complain of systematic neglect and discrimination by successive Israeli governments, see only a ploy to curb their population growth and criminalize their community members.

Israeli Justice Ministry’s Emi Palmor, who spearheads the campaign, says she’s determined to enforce the law but is trying to do so with input from the community. She said she has spent two years researching the issue.

Around 20 to 30 percent of Bedouin men practice polygamy, according to government figures, with the rate climbing as high as 60 percent in some villages.