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Bigamy ( Latin to "twice" and Greek γάμος gamos "marriage") or double marriage is the entering into another marriage before an already existing marriage has been dissolved. People who enter into such a twofold association are called bigamists.

The civil status of bigamy or polygamy is legally referred to as “double marriage” or “plural marriage”. In western societies, values ​​that prescribe monogamy are predominantly represented . In these societies, bigamy is therefore a form of marriage that is not permitted by law .


The most famous case and important for the history of the “ Reformation ” was the marriage of Landgrave Philip I of Hesse and his “ concubineMargarethe von der Saale in 1540 .


In Germany, double marriage or plural marriage is prohibited under Section 1306 of the German Civil Code . The second marriage is treated as legally effective as long as it is not canceled by a judgment of the family court ( §§ 1313 and 1314 BGB).

Entering into a bigamic marriage is punishable as an offense against personal status under Section 172 of the Criminal Code. Since November 26, 2015, entering into a registered civil partnership alongside a marriage (or another registered civil partnership) has also been punishable (amendment to Section 172 StGB).

Criminally responsible offenders under Section 172 of the Criminal Code can only be spouses or civil partners (only the assistance of the registrar or similar can be considered as participation in the act) who act at least with knowledge of the validity of the still existing marriage or civil partnership . The offense is completed by the notarization of the registrar, through which the second marriage or civil partnership becomes formally valid.

The provision of Section 172 of the Criminal Code itself is relatively insignificant (only 17 convictions in 2003 in the old federal states); constitutionally, it can be justified through the protection of marital status under Article 6 of the Basic Law .

The existence of several formally valid marriages or civil partnerships should be avoided. The requirement of monogamous marriage is anchored in the German legal system in such a way that even within the framework of international private law (international family law ), the existence of multiple marriages can violate public policy under Article 6 EGBGB .

In the area of ​​substitute criminal justice ( Section 7 (2) sentence 2 StGB), a double marriage of a German abroad is only punishable in Germany if the local criminal law also prohibits a double marriage.

The ban becomes problematic when one spouse has been mistakenly declared dead and the other enters into a new marriage. Under civil law, the previous marriage is dissolved in accordance with Section 1319 (2) BGB if at least one of the spouses in the new marriage is in good faith . According to the still prevailing view, however, section 172 of the Criminal Code should be applicable under criminal law (although there is an error of fact in good faith ).

Austria and Switzerland

In Austria ( § 192 StGB) and Switzerland ( Art. 215 StGB) bigamy is also punishable.

Bigamy in film

Web links

Wiktionary: Bigamy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations