Sunday, August 29, 2010

Polygamy in Malaysia

Here we go again with “polygamy is bad for women.”

Men in polygamous unions are happier than their wives, according to a quantitative survey on polygamy among Muslims.

The survey showed that 97% of the men felt they were getting enough or more in term of tenderness and love after taking a second wife.

For the wives, though, it was another story.

Some 42% of first wives felt they were getting less intimacy, tenderness and love after their husbands married again.

Compared to what percentages in supposedly monogamous marriages?

“Most men who practice polygamy say they married again because they do not want to indulge in sex out of wedlock,’’ said head researcher of the study Prof Norani Othman.

I can’t imagine a man would take on another wife if he is already getting everything he needs and wants in a woman from his current wife or wives, and if what he is giving in return is only enough for her. And let’s remember that marriage is more than sex.

The survey also revealed that polygamy had taken a financial toll on the families of the first wives.

A total of 44% of them had to take on extra work as their husbands could not provide for them as they had done before.

This goes beyond the marriage practices to the larger culture. After all, this is a limited form of polygamy (polygyny only) with a limit of four wives to one husband, and there are other restrictions, especially on women, including when it comes to employment and finances. With gender equality and the freedom to other forms of polygamy (grouping, polyandry), women would have more power over their own lives.

Nobody should promise to provide a certain amount of time and financial resources to someone else and then abandon or change that promise without mutual agreement. The other person should be truly free to leave with their share of the resources if things are changed.

I don’t like to see studies and articles like this used to paint poly bad with a broad brush. There are some women who enjoy polygyny, especially independent women, like a woman who will feel smothered and put upon if her husband is always depending on her for attention.
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