Should ‘Polygamous’ marriages be abolished?
Published October 4, 2009
Having a wife and entertaining a concubine or a mistress elsewhere is the modern type of polygamy. What benefits does polygamy bring to a nation, a society or individual? Nothing. Eliminate it then, writes AMOR NAMUOTO.
In Kenya, marriage hitherto viewed as an achievement, or a form of social graduation, is currently changing into a necessity catapulted by hard economic times and changing lifestyles, especially in cities.
Having a wife and a concubine or a mistress, is the modern type of polygamy. Although many of these mistresses, or ‘other wives’ come to light when a man dies; they all perform the duties of a wife.
In the United States, citizens have the right to engage in any kind of sexual relationship, with any number of partners as long as it is consensual. Consent in this case is not well-defined (same sex individuals can also consent to be intimates). In addition, consensual can be momentary (a.k.a. booty call), or long lasting (a.k.a. cohabitation). With this kind of setup, it is possible for any person, American or not, to legally sire several children outside marriage with different partners.
Whereas many religious practices around the world die hard, the choice between being a polygamist (being legally married to many women), bigamist (criminal offence of marrying one person while still legally married to another), or polyandrous (being married to more than one husband at a time), is very flexible. One does not need to rely on his or her family ethics to make that choice.
We need to repackage our marriage laws to accommodate current social and cultural differences, so that we can put new definitions to the limits and morals in marriage. However, the choice in some African and Asian cultures leans on social status of the individual and the economic capability. That to me sounds like a lifestyle.
Polygamy in the US
I called my friend in California and asked if she thought polygamy in the US is a premeditated crime, or a legitimate religious or cultural practice. “Currently, as an American,” she explained, “I can have multiple husbands, so long as they are consecutive, not concurrent. If I were to legally marry two men right now, I would immediately become the matron of California state prison for at least five years.”
“Mmh” I sighed inaudibly. “Then come to Kenya…. When it comes to marriages, the society is very tolerant.” “I don’t mean that polygamy isn’t happening in the US, but many times it is viewed as a speck in our civilization,” she went on. “It is more complicated than it seems. Some decisions made by states across this nation, enforcing laws criminalizing lifestyles such as polygamy may make it look as if the practice is criminal in nature. Yet the constitution allows us the right to engage in various arrangements without government’s intervention,” she explained.
“But that’s good,” I interjected. “I mean, it is for the benefit of the society.” “Yeah, I agree,” she said. “I think that is why polygamy and polyandry are criminal offences.”
What does religion say about polygamy?
Polygamy is a hot issue among Christians, Jews, Muslims and Mormons. The book of Deuteronomy in the bible speaks about polygamy and division of property. Abraham, David and Solomon were polygamists. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, but he was still favored by God. Mohammed had 10 wives, though the Koran limits multiple wives to only four.
Polygamy is still practiced among the Jews. Again, in the US alone, we currently have more than 50,000 polygamists. In countries such as Tibet, like in some cultures around the world, polyandry is still accepted. It is hard to accept this, but such practices sometimes satisfy human weaknesses.
Is polygamy a crime?
In a discussion on Fox News on July 24, 2008, the panelists claimed that polygamy is “lawless” and “a form of organized crime,” which demands national attention and federal action. During the show, Senator Harry Reid claimed that some of the crimes polygamists commit are bigamy, child abuse, forced marriage of teens, and pre-teens to older men, welfare fraud, tax evasion and other “strong-arm tactics” such as witness intimidation.
So, why is polygamy a crime?
Because we struggle to keep our societies sane, by making laws that challenge man’s weaknesses. Both sexes are at fault because we allow these practices and assume they are cultural. Legalizing such marriages hurts our morality.
The fear of polygamy in marriages
Several women residing in Nairobi today prefer to remain single because they do not want to commit to relationships that will later turn abusive or polygamous. As you would imagine, women prefer undivided attention from their husbands. Kenyan women are no exception. Many of them dislike the idea of their husbands entertaining secret concubines across the city, which is the new form of polygamy in Kenya.
Men cite various reasons for engaging in such habits including the need for more sex (for lack of adequate sex in their relationships) and misplaced anger (being angry with the wife, and rather than deal with the problem, he engages in an affair to make her pay).
But the men can’t hide such clandestine affairs for long and at some point the legal woman finds out. Interestingly, very few of such revelations usually lead to separation or divorce.
In most cases, the other woman is usually someone who knows the family and understands the legal woman’s weaknesses. Therefore, she simply fills in the gap, and finds solace that she gets all she wants from the man, and remains away from the legal woman’s radar.
Many women are now privy to methods of identifying cheating husbands. For example, many of them have joined Facebook and other social networks web sites using unique names and tricked their husbands into a relationship, to determine whether they would cheat on them or not.
Men cheat left, right and center. It is almost a curse from creation. Few are able to deal with lust outside their marriages. Many are trapped by passion and dreams for new pastures. Women know about these and fear that if unchecked, their marriages could turn polygamous, and secretly pass unnoticed.
Why polygamy should be eliminated
Polygamous marriages shouldn’t be allowed in this century plagued by several problems. First, it negates the Biblical sense of marriage (between one man and one spouse). Whereas the Bible allows a young woman to remarry, it is very specific and only allows remarriage if the woman is widowed at a young age, and not when she needs a booty call.
Second, women are attention seekers, and love cannot be split equally between two or more wives. It creates jealousy, family feuds and separation, which increases the number of single parenthood cases.
Third, one lives a lie. A man knows where his love is, but simply sleeps with a concubine or mistress with a self-given title of wife. This could explain why my former desk mate still insists on allowing polygamy. I wish he were a woman!
Fourth, AIDS continues to claim the lives of many young men and women today and promiscuity is the main ingredient.
Fifth, many young people are now educated, and know that irresponsibility, leading to children out of wedlock has bred street children. What are women supposed to do when the law doesn’t protect them against unscrupulous men? What about the children?
Sixth, a society that tolerates forced marriages also tolerates emotional suffering among women. Such situations occur when a married rich old man eyes a very young lady; and with the parents eyeing the economic blessings that come from such, they are oblivious of the suffering they afflict. They marry their daughters off as second or third wives to some rich old men, and forget that she could be widowed and begin the vicious circle of problems.
So, what benefits does polygamy bring to a nation, a society or individual? Nothing! Eliminate it then.