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Why The Practice of Polygamy Should End

When I was about to get married, the mayor at the civil status registry here in Cameroon asked if my fiancé and I would choose monogamy or polygamy. In a playful tone he went on to explain how his father did not have a problem getting enough laborers for his large cocoa farm since his numerous wives produced several children who could work.

How could one think of children as workers? This is not a topic to discuss comically. Those soft cute human beings that we bear should be cuddled and nurtured.

The practice of a man marrying two or more wives has far-reaching effects on women and children. The eradication of this harmful cultural practice will bring more socio-economic development to impacted communities.

Take a look at popular lines used in a quarrel between two women married to the same man:

“Useless woman, you do not even know how to keep a man.”

“You, prostitute! Is that how you go about snatching people’s husbands?”

“Well I have come here to stay.”

“We shall see, I will make sure you leave this marriage.”

Arguments like this are recurring in such marriages. A battle of words is often followed by a battle of fists. This is definitely an unhealthy environment to live in.

Over the years I’ve observed that polygamous homes are often hotbeds of envy. My husband lost his twin brother shortly after they were born. His father had seven wives and my mother in law was the only one who bore him twins. This attracted jealousy from the other women. The poisonous atmosphere of envy and competition was toxic to this family. Before she died one of the wives confessed to using witchcraft to kill one of the twin babies.

Writing about the negative effects of polygamy on women, Von Struensee states that, “polygamy negatively impacts a women's health, including mental health, sexual and reproductive health and her death from AIDS.”

When Fon Fosi Yakum, the former traditional ruler of Bambalang, a village in Northwestern Cameroon took ill, his numerous wives were frustrated because they could no longer go to spend nights with him, something they enjoyed doing on rare occasions.

The discontented queens began seeking ways to satisfy their sexual desires elsewhere. Many of them left the village for a nearby town to find boyfriends that could fill the gap.

According to traditional rules, that was an abomination. The estranged queens got exiled from their village. Fon Fosi finally died, leaving a throng of widows, among them young ambitious ladies longing to be loved but instead cast out from the home they knew.

A household that includes a man with many wives and children does not look like a marriage. It looks like an empire, with the man as the boss and the women as his childbearing machines.

Supporters of polygamy claim that since there are more women than men on the earth, a man needs to marry many women to ensure that they do not lack husbands. However, a report by the CIA World Factbook states that the 2013 estimate of total world population ratios is 1.01 male to every 1.0 female. Therefore, slightly more men exist than women.

Polygamous men argue it is boring to have sex with one woman all the time. Having many wives ensures variety and sexual gratification. Yet this increases the potential for women and men to contract and spread sexually transmissible infections, including HIV/AIDS.

It puts women, who are more vulnerable, at a greater risk of getting sick and eventually dying.

Men are permitted to have a sexual variety but if woman dares that, she is ostracized. Patriarchy is eating up our societies.

Marriage should be a loving relationship in which a woman and her chosen man share a committed and lawful union. When other women get involved, it kills the flavor of romance that is supposed to surround two love birds.

As a modern African woman, I stand by my own commitment. I can never be a first wife, I can only be a wife and that is it!

If every woman refuses to become a second, third, fourth or fifth wife, polygamy will be history.

REFERENCES
Von Struensee, Susan Vanessa M.G., The Contribution of Polygamy to Women's Oppression and Impoverishment: An Argument for its Prohibition (July 23, 2004).Sourced on Monday August 26th from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=563282
The CIA World Factbook

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Y's picture

Very convincing personal

Very convincing personal account, Precious. I agree with your solution; however many of the sacred texts present the patriarchs of our major religions as polygamous and otherwise abusive. I don't know how we can continue following these texts and change our societies.
Blessings.
Yvette

Y

Precious M's picture

The Bible

Y,
The Bible tells a man to treat his wife as his own body. If a man does that then there will be no violence against women. It is the egoistic nature of men that encourages practices like polygamy.

Precious

My pen speaks

Y's picture

Both the Old and the New

Both the Old and the New Testaments have many misogynistic passages, which are used to justify the disrespect for women. We must remember that the scriptures chosen as sacred were chosen by men, many without their own wives or children.

In my culture, boys are taught to fulfill their animal instincts, no matter what the consequences to their families and/or their communities. Before they can treat a wife as they treat themselves, they must first learn how to be fully human beings and boys and girls must be taught how to see themselves and each other as fully human, with responsible compassion and free will.

It is time that women read their sacred scriptures and interpret them for ourselves.
Blessings to you, Precious.
Yvette

Y

Precious M's picture

Let the women read

Yes the women need to read and see for themselves. We should not depend on the men to call the shots for us. People tend to interpret scriptures in a way that suits them. It is important to look at it as it really is.

What a culture you have there.

Peace and love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Tash's picture

''Supporters of polygamy

''Supporters of polygamy claim that since there are more women than men on the earth, a man needs to marry many women to ensure that they do not lack husbands'' i have always hated this notion in justifying polygamy!

African men and there egos! i have heard from some men though there is no difference in ''taste'' really, i think it comes down to grooming young adult men, to be more respectable towards women and not regard them as play things.

i love your angle and are very much for monogamy even though i can see how debatable this topic could be, being African.

good work!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Precious M's picture

Very Debatable

Yes Patsy,
Here in Africa polygamy is very debatable. There are many strong believers in it. However, I have seen how much it has destroyed lives. That is why I chose to write on it, to create awareness.

Thanks dear!

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

bitani's picture

It is very shocking to read

It is very shocking to read these stories, especially the one on getting children to make them workers!! some people are really sick! thank you precious for bringing up this topic.

Precious M's picture

Sick People!

Yes Bitani,

People are sick of wanting to please themselves so much that they fail to think of the well-being of others. Some of such polygamous men can not and do not care for their children but rather use them. Disgusting!

Precious

My pen speaks

Mukut's picture

Polygamy and Patriarchy

I am not shocked at all to find link between the two- polygamy and patriarchy. When a man marries more than once, it is for his taste, desire and other stuff and when women does the same, it is blasphemy. This is utter rubbish and this is what a misogynist society does to its women.

I am glad that you wrote about this and made your stand clear. I hope every woman understands this and make themselves "not available" to be second or third.

Well done. Brilliant post !

Love,

Mukut Ray

Precious M's picture

Strong link

Yes Mukut, there is a strong link between polygamy and patriarchy. Polygamy favors the man but not the woman. It presents the man with variety while the woman remains lonely. The women fight,, the man watches. It is terrible! I hate it!
Thanks for commenting, sister.

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Susan Alvey's picture

The polygamy debate

Precious - you are so right to raise this issue. As you point out, polygamy creates opportunity for men and women to behave badly. Of course monogamy is not perfect either, but it seems that polygamous states may not create appropriate expectations for polygamous couples and do not always have support systems in place to assist widows and orphans of polygamous families.
My own experience with this is that my (American)sister married an African man from Burkina Faso. His father was polygamous - my brother-in-law was the first son of the first wife. My brother-in-law decided to have a monogamous marriage with my sister, which has been strong for 23 years.
Susan

Precious M's picture

Making the difference

Dear Susan, your brother-in-law did a good thing by not following the footsteps of his father. My husband's father had 7 wives but my husband married just me.

Polygamous marriages often produce lots of widows and orphans. Some of these orphans are end up being deliquents. I am yet to see something good about polygamy.

Precious

My pen speaks

Monica09's picture

Forced marriages

Dear Precious,

Thank you for your insightful article! I firmly believe that a woman should not be forced into marriage, whether polygamous or monogamous. A woman should acquaint herself with all the consequences and then she should decide for herself. I also believe that a woman should be given ample time to decide and to take the responsibility that comes with marriage, by which I mean, she should not be rushed into marriages (bride marriage or even marriage at whatever age when she is not ready/confident).

Here's something related to your article that you may find interesting: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/category/polygamy/

Your pen speaks! :)

In friendship,
Monica

Precious M's picture

No to forced marriages

Dear Monica,

Thanks for your feedback. Forced marriages is a crime against humanity. The decision to get married should be made by the person who intends to get married.

Thanks for the link. It is terrible for people to force others into polygamy.

My pen will keep speaking!

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Iryna's picture

About love

Precious, you are right reminding that the marriage is, first of all, the union of two loving hearts. When people say that it is boring to have sex with only one woman or when men need more women to have more children to work, where is this love?
The essence of marriage is the official statement of love between two people.
Thank you for speaking about this issue. It is worldwide problem. Because even if, for example, in Ukraine, officialy allowed only monogamous marriages men still often have lovers because they don't see in women equal persons.
I support you and want to stop polygamy
Best regards,
Iryna

Precious M's picture

Thanks for the support

Iryna, there is this interesting story I heard some days ago. A man was married to one woman and they had a very loving relationship. They were well known in the village where they lived. The man treated his wife better than other man and the woman respected her husband. But the sweet music became a war song when the man married a second wife. The loving relationship became history. Both women were often having problems . The man lost the peace and love he once had.

Men should know that when they fail to love one woman faithfully, the negative consequences will fall back on them. No to polygamy!

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Zoepiliafas's picture

This statement is

This statement is powerful:

"As a modern African woman, I stand by my own commitment. I can never be a first wife, I can only be a wife and that is it! If every woman refuses to become a second, third, fourth or fifth wife, polygamy will be history."

It is putting the power in the women! It becomes about choice.

Do you think all women are provided the choice? If they are not provided the choice, what is preventing the freedom to choice? Culture? Laws/norms?

I am curious to learn more!

Warmly,

Zoe

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
World Pulse

Precious M's picture

The women have the power

However Zoe, not all women have that freedom of choice. Some women are pressurized into polygamy due to some factors. I have an older cousin and she just got married as a second wife. She has being a single woman for several years and people thought she was just too old to be single. I even overheard a family member say: "Let her marry...even as a 10th wife. We just want her to get married." This is an example of pressure that will push a woman to take a decision she does not necessarily like because she wants to gain acceptance.
BUT women MUST learn to believe in who they are and be confident. Whether married or single, young or old, divorced or childless, be happy and be confident. We should not be swept away by the wind of how society thinks. When we learn to trust ourselves, then that is freedom!

Regards,
Precious

My pen speaks

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