The Ethical Dilemma of Funding Polygamous Refugees

Why should the UN and Refugee programs re-think their strategy for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As the worldwide refugee crisis grows, countries and organizations are working hard to provide financial aid and support for displaced people. While meeting refugees’ basic needs is essential, it’s also important to think about the ethical aspects of supporting certain practices. Funding polygamous refugees has become a controversial issue. This story looks at why funding polygamy might not be acceptable in refugee aid programs.

Ahmed [alias], a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, has an interesting story. After fleeing conflict, he married his first wife and had three children. They started receiving support from United Nations programs, which helped them with their wedding, education, and living expenses.

The video [ar] shows Ahmed talking about his situation.

Ahmed then married a second wife without divorcing the first one. The United Nations program also helped fund their wedding and supported both families. Eventually, Ahmed married a third wife and had more children. In total, he had sixteen children with three wives in ten years. They lived in three tents and appreciated the support they received from the United Nations and the people of Lebanon.

However, this story raises some concerns:

  • Legal and Cultural Clash: Polygamy goes against the idea of equal partnerships in marriage. By funding polygamous refugees, aid programs might accidentally support practices that clash with local laws and values, which could create tensions between refugees and local communities.
  • Human Rights and Gender Equality Concerns: Polygamy has often been criticized for causing gender inequality and, in some cases, exploiting women. Women in polygamous marriages may have less access to resources, education, and decision-making power, which could limit their empowerment. Funding polygamous refugees could indirectly support these inequalities and harmful practices.
  • Misallocation of Resources: Refugee aid programs usually have limited resources and need to prioritize vulnerable groups, like women, children, and the elderly. By funding polygamous refugees, aid organizations might accidentally take resources away from those who need them the most, making life even harder for vulnerable populations.

Reinforcing Harmful Cultural Practices:

While respecting cultural diversity is important, some cultural practices can be harmful to individuals and communities. By financially supporting polygamous refugees, aid programs might accidentally strengthen practices that lead to negative social, economic, and health outcomes, which could make it harder to promote positive social change.

Several programs and initiatives are available to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, these include:

  • UNHCR: Provides protection, assistance, and support.
  • WFP: Offers food assistance, including electronic food vouchers.
  • UNICEF: Focuses on education, healthcare, and protection for children.
  • UNRWA: Provides healthcare, education, and social services.
  • NGOs: Offer services such as healthcare, education, legal aid, and psychosocial support.
  • Cash assistance programs: Help vulnerable families meet basic needs.
  • Livelihood and skills development programs: Assist refugees in becoming self-reliant and finding employment opportunities.

In conclusion, as the world tries to help refugees, it’s important to balance cultural diversity with human rights and gender equality. Given the legal, cultural, and ethical concerns about polygamy, funding polygamous refugees might not be the right choice for aid programs. Instead, organizations should focus on empowering vulnerable groups and helping refugees in ways that promote social harmony, integration, and long-lasting benefits for everyone involved.