Yesterday, I called my mum as usual and one major item dominated our conversations – she was mainly talking about the Kyabazinga wedding, and then we went to discuss the fate of the king’s first wife here in the UK. She is definitely not a happy bunny at the moment.
British law does not allow for a person to be married to more than one other person. On indictment, it is punishable with up to 7 years in prison, or on summary conviction up to 6 months' imprisonment, or a fine of a prescribed sum, or both.
Men (and women) are prosecuted if they try to register two or more marriages. You can call another sexual partner a second or third "wife" if you wish, but as long as you don’t try and register it, then the law simply doesn’t care. It also becomes a problem when the first wife reports the husband to the police. The law can also take an interest if there are children involved of course, but that’s an entirely different matter.
If you and your multiple spouses come into the UK from a country that allows polygamy, such as Uganda, UK law will only recognise one spouse. Other spouses are allowed to call themselves spouses but don't have the same rights as first spouses. This usually also applies under diplomatic law where the first spouse can be accredited and while other spouses are allowed to travel and accompany their spouse, they do not have the same diplomatic protection as the first spouse.
Also, it is possible to be married religiously, but your spouse won’t be recognised legally if you’re already married. We, Muslims, for instance do " Nikah " ceremonies, and that person becomes your spouse in the eyes of God, but not under UK law. Therefore, If the person hasn’t attempted multiple legal marriages and is just living with multiple partners they consider spouses, that is a polyamorous arrangement that currently has no legal support but isn’t punishable either.
Why is bigamy illegal in the UK?
Marrying more than one person for non-fraudulent reasons is illegal because there is an enormous legal infrastructure having to do with next-of-kin and inheritance, which assumes that a marriage consists of exactly two people. Consider the situation of a Kyabazinga in an irreversible vegetative state in a hospital in the UK, and he has two wives, but the hospital wants to remove life support. One wife agrees, while the other does not. Who wins? Definitely, it's the registered wife here in the UK.
Apparently, allowing polygamy here would require the UK to rewrite a ton of laws and would also render a ton of case law (judicial decisions) irrelevant. The government doesn’t want to have to do that, and so that is considered a sufficiently legitimate reason to ban bigamy.
Personally, I think the UK and other countries with such a law, should try and review it to allow people to enjoy multiple marriages legally. If It’s perfectly legal for a man to have sexual relations with two people, marriage to two people should be no different.
Otherwise, congratulations to the King of Busoga kingdom and his newly wedded traditional wife. The Wedding looked so beautiful. By the way, Lusoga sounds more like Luganda - "Aye ntegeleyele byona byona omukaile omukyala (queen waife) byayakobye" in her wedding speech. I understood almost everything that was said in Lusoga at the wedding. I love Basoga so much!