Polygamy is often connected to culture, identity, and religion. Although it is difficult to cut it out of society for good, women are the most vulnerable in the situation. It is women, whose dignity and pride are often broken in the process, leading to poverty and the risk of diseases. There has not been much success with the fight against it. Polygamy is a phenomenon and seen as a valid form of marriage in Africa, the practice is often seen with men. A man with many wives is seen as wealthy; advocates of polygamy highlight the more the wives, the more the children that are equated to blessings and long life family legacy.
There is a divided ideology especially in the Christianity fraternity on the subject of Polygamy. Some Men are of the opinion that David and Solomon are classic examples of the practice and they were a blessing to their generation. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is something most African men want. In Uganda, a petition to make the practices unconstitutional was rejected, in Kenya, the practice is legalized which has huge support from men especially majority leaders, lawmakers, etc.
Former South African, President Jacob Zuma is deeply rooted in the practice having four wives, whereas in Tanzania President John Magufuli energetically encourages polygamy; with his threshold statement marry more to reduce singleness of women.
So clearly, polygamy can never be outdated. The practice is associated with status and wealth, sexual satisfaction is just a bonus to the practice. The sexual aspect of the practice was never the core reason but rather status associated to it.
In broader light, the African man is seen to have stronger reasons for this practice, they are:
- A sure way to end infertility problems
Childbearing is the crust of every African marriage, issues arise when a wife cannot bear a child for the husband, and thus having multiple wives can solve this problem as the frustration of the child bearing is reduced on the barren wife. A classic example is the scenario of Sarah giving her maid to his husband to bed and conceive. It is believed the African wife might not have the “Sarah kind of strength’’ to pass her husband on to another thus the man would be the right person to rather bring in another woman.
- A sexual satisfaction solution for men during pregnancy and nursing
Some parts of African culture forbid that a pregnant or nursing mother should have sexual intercourse with her husband at such period. It is clear the husband will be unwilling to wait for such a longer time! Nine months and beyond
Then the question arises, how a husband fends for himself sexually during this period. Most men claim it is better to engage a second wife than to cheat with a whore. Somehow, it is believed the practices reduced unfaithfulness and divorce.
- A source of labor
In every culture worldwide, the man is seen as the breadwinners. In African, farming is usually the mode of survival, which requires strength and labor force. The abundance of wives will easily solve the issue of the labor force. The more the wives, the more the children, the more the greater labor force which can easily be converted to riches due to the harvest of the farms, so the abundance of children serves as a stronghold and lighten the burden of the man. Therefore, the practice is not just, for the social purpose it highly seen as an economic asset.
- A solution in the event of menopause and companionship
It is believed that women due to childbirth and other related issues grow faster than the man. In addition, she is likely to hit the menopause age faster. Losing interest and companionship, this can push the man to loneliness but with more than one wife. The man is likely to enjoy companionship living long to fend for the family.
Amid all these, are multiples advantageous reasons and benefits for the man, where do the women stand and what her benefits are. At the end of the day, marriage is a contract where both parties ought to benefit. The woman’s narrative in a polygamous marriage might be different, although the situation by far silence women in a subtle manner. Women go through phases in this kind of marriage. Here are a few impacts
– Mental and Emotional health: This state of health issues comes in different forms including depression, hostility amongst the wives, anxiety, etc. that reduce joy, marital satisfaction, and increase family problems.
– Poverty: The practices often leave the wives, in poverty. Women are often seen as baby-making machines and most of her life is dedicated to taking care of children. This makes her highly dependent on the man leading to extreme poverty.
These two major components have greater impacts on the development of women; it will be of importance if these factors are considered during polygamous marriage. The ability of a man to consult his wife before bringing in another woman shows respect and shield the pride of the woman, the ability to ensure that there is peace and stability amongst wives should be the responsibility of the man, after all, it was his idea. This can reduce mental and emotional issues.
The phenomenon is a bit dicey and only the can tell what really goes on in polygamous marriage. It is just fair for can both parties to benefit equally but well whether it is a good deal or not only the wives can tell.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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