Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tazanian Polygyny

This blog entry references a news article about Ancentus Akuku, a Kenyan who recently died in his nineties, leaving behind 100 wives before going on to talk about polygyny in Tanzania.

Although polygamy was the norm in Kenya during Akuku's time, the article cites that this practice has died out over the years. To whatever extent that claim is true in Kenya, this practice decidedly persists in Tanzania. We have seen many, many examples of polygamous marriages during our time here. Not only does polygamy continue to happen on an informal basis, it is actually sanctioned by Tanzanian law. Upon registration, a marriage license must be filed according to one of three classifications: polygamous, potentially polygamous, or monogamous. Incidentally any declared status can be "converted" to polygamous or monogamous by joint declaration at any time. As it exists, polygamous relationships are permitted only with the consent of the first wife, in fact maintenance of the other wives becomes the first wife's duty in cases where the husband is incapacitated or otherwise unable to earn a living.

Ideally, a legal marriage should have the consent of all involved. A marriage between two people should require the consent of both for a third person to be added, and all three of them would need to consent before a fourth person could be added, and so on. Also, while the blog entry was discussing polygyny, gender should not be taken into account from a legal perspective. The freedom to marry should be extended regardless of gender. If one woman wants to marry two men (polyandry), that should be no different, legally speaking, than one man marrying two women, or a marriage formed by two women and two men.

Let people make their own choices, instead of having a narrow construct forced on them from by others.
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