In Italy polygamous marriages are not recognized and for this reason bigamy is not only prohibited, but it is also considered as a crime.
In general, bigamy is a crime in almost all western countries, but it is allowed in some African and Asian countries and it is very common in Islamic countries.
Bigamy is when an individual is married simultaneously with two different people, which is not permitted under Italian Law. Pursuant to Art. 556 of the Italian Criminal Code, bigamy is punished with imprisonment from 1 to 5 years, either if the married person enters into new marriage (proper bigamy) or if the unmarried person enters into a new marriage with a married person (improper bigamy).
Italian Law provides that the penalty is increased if the guilty party has misled the other person.
However, the crime of bigamy is extinguished in the following cases:
- If the first marriage is declared null and void;
- If the second marriage is invalidated for reasons other than bigamy (e.g. the spouse is considered as incapable of understanding and willingness).
The reason why bigamy is a crime under Italian Law resides in the protection that the Italian legal system grants to the institution of family. In fact, it is classified as a crime against the family.
In Italy, civil unions (hence including same-sex ones) are considered equal to marriages, therefore bigamy is to be applied also in those cases.