Home General Issues Guest Contributor: African Mami shares her thoughts on Polygamy

Guest Contributor: African Mami shares her thoughts on Polygamy

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Polygamy is the devil. If you thought that the devil’s zipcode was hell, I am here to tell you that he has been residing and bedding our African society, for ages. It is time that we, ‘rikitaad the madimoni’, -cast the polygamy demon-out of our household.  No, I am not a full blooded feminist, but I do subscribe to the ideology of gender equity and equality. Matters pertaining to the continual disenfranchisement of the African woman, in this day and age, where supposedly women are running the world a la Beyonce, are close to my heart. Ponder on what I just said, by asking yourself the Afropolitan Experience, 5 in 5 staple question, “What does it mean to be African in the 21st century?” Now, dig deeper and ask yourself, What does it mean to be an African woman in the 21st century? Truth be told, in as much as it seems to be that we have made giant steps, towards integrating women into our highly paternalistic society, there are still vices, such as polygamy that do not help with this progressive cause, the continent seems to be on right now.

The issue of polygamy is one that has been debated passionately, many times over here.  It is a contentious issue, to say the least. As far as I am concerned, polygamy is of no benefit to the African woman. If anything, she is tangled in a fictitious web, especially if she is wife #2, 3 or 80, of one day being the only grain in his jallof serving. Somebody will refute my consternation by listing polygamy as a great avenue of forging sisterhood and a support system with the other wives. Eh, stop right there! Although these women, may collaborate with each other when need be, for the most part, they are in constant competition with each other, to win the attention of their shared prize-a mere mortal man. Woi! By the way, I propose a co-wives reality show in Africa, I would love to be a participant.

Furthermore, a polygamous situation relegates a woman into a subordinate level in which the man asserts his authority and holy dominion. This does not require any factual backing, as it pertains to Africa. Take the traditions of the Maasai culture. They are a polygamous tribe who believe that: a man’s wealth rests upon the number of cattle and children he has. Young girls are married off, to gizzards old enough to be their fathers, in prospects of them becoming, welcome semen receptacles and child popping extraordinaire.  These young girls are denied the rights to an education and being celebrated as equals.

The disease that brings discomfort in discussions, HIV/AIDS is very much rife in our culture. The statistics are telling. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I’ve never heard of condom use in marriage in Africa. This rarity occurs in discordant couples. So  let’s say a man is married to three women, and he is in the market prospecting to add more. What are the probable chances, that he will require an HIV/AIDS test result, before marrying the girl?! What if she is infected?! That means a whole bloodline is going to be seriously affected and infected.

Our society has been accepting of this engagement for so long without examining the intricate dangers that result from it. Those like me who see this as a backdated and regressive practice are often dismissed as being feminists who have been heavily influenced by the Western world. As if to mean, that it is only the west that thinks progressively! Ha. It is high time we kumbayaad together as an African people, and abolish this practice with the quickness that is Naomi Campbell’s balding edges. If not for our sake, let it be for our future generations.

This is purely opine oo…..don’t start asking for PHD dissertations to back up my opinion! What say you my friend?

23 COMMENTS

  1. Hmmm! As for this can of worms you’ve opened! I know a few women – educated even – who are staunch advocates for polygamy. They say it offers them the freedom not to have to cater to one man all day every day and still have he benefit of being cared for as a “wife”.

    Me? It’s not my thing at all. I don’t play well with others and more than two people in bed is def a crowd!

  2. African mami you make some great points! i wonder though that now that polygamy’s fading out (on paper) isnt there a lot of polygamy in practice? in other words are there not a lot of men cheating on their wives? i’m in a male dominated profession and when we had our convention this year, 90% of the married men came with their mistresses. how do you fix that? in other words, would i prefer my hubby to marry another woman and stick to both of us or would i be happier to be married to a man whom i claim to be my own but whom unbeknownst to me shags everything in skirt every other day? i cant tell

  3. So my father had 16 of us wiv 6 women (I reckon he took the “go into the world and multiply ” fing a tad too seriously) but I also remember reading sumffin ’bout us being greater than our fathers, so me thinks…. Just kidding… On the reals, tho… E be like say the entire polygamous setting and its subsequent drama – enough to rival The Bold and The Beautiful- has had its impact… All 9 sons (and 7 daughters) of his are hell bent on making their MONOGAMOUS relationships work!!! Screw being PoliticallyCorrect, polygamy should should be treated as a human rights issue… Just a shade under ModernDaySlavery… Did I hear someone whisper “ThatSwaziKing”????

  4. @ Malaka,

    eh, eh, educated women are proponents to this madness?! Hold up, they say that they have the luxury of not catering to one man? So I wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that they have their side roasted maize with a little bit of chilli on it. Cheiii! How do they handle this complicated relationships. They have the benefit of being cared for as a wife. Financially you mean. These your friends oo, I want to meet them.

    I do agree with you, two is a crowd, make it three. All I know is that this my afro, would not be in existence, it would be gone because of the cat fights I’d find myself in!

    @ Kaye,
    Wow! Never thought of it that way. I’ll be very honest, I would not approve of my husband marrying another woman! No. Love in certain instances, is unsharable, as this one. Now, if I’m left with the option of him shagging every wearer of the skirt, I think divorce would be my best option. My dear, HIV/AIDS is real, but then again there is a higher power that exists-God! I don’t have the patience to pray for 20some years for my husband to change, only to be confronted with the realities of gonorrhea, syphillis, HIV/AIDS packed into one. Nope! I’ve seen this situations play out and they never end well, if anything they live destitute orphans.

    @Ebenezer,
    Thank you!!!! Your family situation reinforces my perspective on polygamy. Good for you brothers being hellbent on monogamy!! Eh, by the way, I’m available-is any your brodas looking for a wife oo?! I don’t cook to begin with.:)

  5. I’m very surprised to hear that some educated women like polygamous relationships-in this day and age. Really? This to me is semi-literacy; when educated people refuse to use the critical thinking abilities the experience of education affords them. In marriage we must be selfish-no sharing. It has to be me and only me-if you want more please let me go…wait… watch my back as I leave.

    Good post African Mami

  6. Polygamy and HIV linked? My grandfather had three women in his life. They all had their own place and he visits each of them from time to time. They women did not like each other but non of them caught an STD

    one man to one woman? Thats not always possible. Men cheat alot. now we women are also cheating .
    Cheating on your monogamous partner has more risk of HIV than polygamy. At least You know who your husband is sleeping with.

    Is not everything that we have to change guys. I don’t know how much of a tradition polygamy is to africansl but we should not rid it. If is mutual and everyone is happy. I wouldn’t mind being in one, thats if I am the 1st wife.
    Or what the heck, I could be that the woman with the 3 husbands
    What are the stats? How many people infected with aids were in a polygamy?

    I would rather have a stop sleeping around campaign than a stop polygamy one.
    I would like to think that people practising it know the risk and are therefore responsible.

    Religion and the west says it’s wrong. Polygamy is outdated but it must stay .

  7. @ Dela,

    Your grandfather’s times and now are quite different. The first HIV/AIDS reporting was in 1981. Not to say that it did not exist before. The fact of the matter is that it was not rife as it is today.
    http://fohn.net/history-of-aids/timeline.html

    Oh mi gosh! iDIED @ went to heaven at you wanting to be a first wife. Do you know you are the most neglected of the lot?! My dear, the last wife-often times is younger in age and more edible, which means that she receives the most attention. C’mon now!

    Statistics on polygamy and HIV/AIDS:
    http://segalfamilyfoundation.org/sub-saharan-africa/Documents/PolygamyDevelopment2.1.pdf
    http://www.uneca.org/chga/report/chap1.pdf
    http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1086&context=honors

    I hear you on the stop cheating campaign, but I do honestly feel that as African women we are shortchanging ourselves when we subscribe to this familial situation. As stated in my opine, there are equality issues which do not favor us as African women.

  8. I really do not know what to think about this issue. As a girl from a muslim family (no longer muslim) i always dreamt of being the youngest wife of a rich man (cos i figured, the youngest usually gets all the love and affection).
    i know no married woman would want her hubby to marry another & that’s where the rights issue comes in (although you could always divorce if your hubby decides to take another wife like my grandma did 60yrs ago). Two of my friends were fervently pursued by married men & fell in love with them. they’re now married to them & are ‘respectable women’ in society’s sight. they feel polygamy gives them & their children better rights than they’d have had in western societies (they’d hv bn despised as mistresses and their children would have been bastards). so i guess it depends on which side of the coin you’re on. PS: sticking to one partner is what helps prevent HIV so polygamy can lead to HIV (as in Fela Kuti’s case) and cheating (even if done only once) can also lead to HIV (like the sad case of some women panelists on Gifty Anti’s Standpoint last month who were infected by their hubbies.)

  9. @African Mami – Great post, well written and extremely humourous. I’m the product of a polygamous marriage, and I think I have turned out alright 🙂 I’m very secure in the love and affection I have from both my parents. However I think polygamy is unfair to women (the man gets to have his cake and eat it too), and its not a choice I would make for myself. I think in the past African women made polygamy work for them – so my Great Grandfather for e.g. had 7 wives who all lived in different towns and run their own businesses – but in today’s context (especially with STDS) it is totally irrelevant in my humble opinion.

  10. @ Nana,

    Your case is special oo! All your great grannies were business women, if your case was replicable to all these others one, I’d probably be singing a different tune. It seems to me, that there was an element of what is good for the goose, is good for the gander too, in regard to your grandfather encouraging his women to maintain their own lives that were not completely vested in him.

    Was he an Igbo transplant by way of Naija to Ghana?! Eh, all his wives were making muuuuuuuuuney!!!! I like I like! 🙂

  11. My granddad too had four wives, and although their household was fitting for the time, albeit with its own tensions, there should be no place for polygamy as an institution in a modern society where every individual is equal. If some women are happy to be in polygamous marriage by choice then by all means, but this should not as an excuse to infidelity, because then it’s still not a choice but rather a sacrifice/penalty for marrying a man who cannot love you on the terms you desire…

  12. African Mami, why my contribution never found its way to publication only the editor can tell.But given that my email address was there I should have been assigned simple reasons why my contribution is not here among the 13 comments posted here.Or is this one feminist’s campaign and onslaught on polygamy and therefore other voices stating otherwise should not be heard?You had a bad experience with polygamy so it is bad. Then we shouldn’t have monogamy too. People have had bad experiences with monogamy so it should be bad and treated like a human rights issue like African Mami like will want us to believe. Let us tackle the facts and statistics on the ground and stop throwing emotive unverified opinion as facts. How many HIV infected people have been in polygamous relationships as opposed to those in monogamous relationships.
    Akutor when you comment “I’m very surprised to hear that some educated women like polygamous relationships-in this day and age. Really? This to me is semi-literacy; when educated people refuse to use the critical thinking abilities the experience of education affords them. In marriage we must be selfish-no sharing. It has to be me and only me-if you want more please let me go” Let me just point out that literacy does not equate education, and more importantly education does not also equate wisdom.There are lots of literate persons who might aptly be described as uneducated. They can read and write but don’t have the critical analytical skills and memory to interprete what they read, more so applying that education to the long term solution of human challenges ,which is the trait we term wisdom.So Akutor I dare state that on the basis of your statement and thinking, quite a huge chunk of the world’s educated muslim women must really be daft to be in polygamous relationships.Western education has some values subtly embedded in it.It not mean all other values of other civilisations are bad, but if there is one value I can tell you underpins western education and civilisation, it is the undue glorification of the SELF giving birth to the word SELFISH.

  13. @ Kwaku – I’m confused by your statement that “contribution never found its way to publication”. I am the editor of this site, and I’ve uploaded all comments that were made on this post. Maybe your previous comment for some reason didn’t come through. You can see there is a diversity of opinions on this post so I think its unfair to assume that your comments was not uploaded because this is “one feminist’s campaign and onslaught on polygamy and therefore other voices stating otherwise should not be heard?”.

    In any case I hope you feel satisfied now that your voice has been heard

  14. @ Kwaku

    ololololo…..my dear did you not read the disclaimer about statistics/phd thesis.verification…this is purely OPINE!

    This was not a feminist rant. It is what it is oo. I just feel that the African woman limits her options by getting into a polygamous situation, and the odds are against her. Don’t kill the messenger….I want to live and see my unborn child. Thank you and may the good Lord bless you with a lot of wives!

  15. Africa Mami
    Most of those who have not lived to see their unborn babies, and who have been attacked by jealous husbands, and killed are mainly found in monogamous liaisons. Ask the courts.As a woman and second or third wife why are going to fight, when you know that before you were others and that fact is held constantly in front of you thru the presence (visible or distant) of those wives who were there before you arrived.In monogamous situations there is the pretense of all those girlfriends and boyfriends before, having suddenly vanished into thin air. In the former situation can one afford to be overly jealous? Not much.The real crunch of the practice of polygamy is that there are real economic costs to its perpetuation and this is what has got people pretend they will do away with it. Lots of educated women, with their biological clock ticking loudly with their middle age do easily piggy baggy on an financially endowed married man (pseudo-polygamy) than go around ‘looking for their own’ especially if that ‘own’ is a man of straw.I think we should look at the Nigerian model where the title of Mrs is liberally given out to all the married wives of a particular man. Mrs just translates to ‘wife of’. In terms of bonding and cohesion I think society is the beneficiary. I agree with you that the Masai practice of polygamy needs to be modified to suit the times.I also have issues with the Arab practice of it but overall polygamy is not the dog that should be given a bad name and hung for dead.

  16. @ Kwaku

    ma broda,woi! Just find you 10 wives. It seems the world will come to an end because of this my article oo!!! RELAX….sip with me a masala tea-lets toast! *clink clink*

  17. @ African Mami: this is an excellent post!
    i must admit that i understand both sides of the argument. of course, no woman who marries her sweetheart would like to share him with any other woman & it must be hurtful when after giving off ur best to a man he comes home one day to tell u he’s going in for a younger wife! and also it smacks of inequality because @ least in our african society, women are not allowed to marry as many men as they like.

    That said, i understand those who advocate for polygamy. it appears that many men cheat on their wives and out of those who don’t cheat, a substantial number will divorce the wives of their youth somewhere along the line and marry another. i guess the point i’m making is that while most people admit that the ideal is 1 man- 1 wife forever, unfortunately, it appears not to happen often. therefore, some believe instead of the man ditching his wife for another or cheating on her, it would be better for him to marry. it’s still bad but preferable to the other options(dont fall off ur chair in indigantion, lol!)

    some unmarried women believe that polygamy widens their net of ‘eligible men’ ie: fun, successful, married men are not off limits. further, for women who date married men, they believe that without polygamy, they’d hv bn scorned by society as mistresses/ scarlet women and their children would have bn considered as illegitimate.
    there are also several people who say, my dad/ granddad had several wives and i turned out happy and superb.

    i do not know which side is right.

  18. @ African Mami, i know i’m greedy and always go for seconds! I wanted 2 ask u abt polygamy and HIV: i read the articles at the links u provided & they mention subsaharan Africa & state that polygamy is part of the reason why our hiv rates are so high. but i googled the topic and discovered from these sites

    http://www.indexmundi.com/map/?l=en&r=me&v=32
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_HIV/AIDS_adult_prevalence_rate
    http://www.avert.org/africa-hiv-aids-statistics.htm

    that most of the arabic countries( Saudi Arabia,United Arab Emirates, Syria and more) have comparatively lower hiv rates as do countries where Islam is predominantly practiced like Senegal & Mali. but we know that due to their religion, these countries practice polygamy. Saudi Arabia (which permits polygamy) has lower hiv rates than united states, united kingdom, france and switzerland which forbid polygamy. how do you explain that?
    once again congrats for getting us all thinking and talking about this controversial topic!

  19. @ Ekuba,

    The low HIV/AIDS rates as it relates to polygamy in Arab countries, I really cannot explain

    By the way, I did NOT state that polygamy is the sole contributing factor to the high HIV/AIDS rate in Africa. What I was doing was acknowledging the fact that in these turbulent times that the devil has been let loose to destroy mankind (can I get an AMEN!) and this familial situation, where there are more than two partners involved, there are increased chances of everybody being infected/affected.

    What I do about Africa is that the following are the key factors that breed HIV/AIDS

    1.) Poverty
    2.) Ignorance
    3.) Lack of Education.

    Your serial commenting is highly appreciated. My God, you think we contribute articles for them to be just looked at….eh, eh…that drives me nuts! I like the engagement——–>the back and forth banter is what keeps a blog alive oo!

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