Monday, January 10, 2011

Some Women Want Polygyny

In addition to women who want to be part of a group marriage or want multiple husbands (polyandry), there are women who want polygyny. Some people have denied this to be true, charging that women in polygynous marriages must have been forced or coerced into them.

Adam R asked some questions about polygamy in Islam, which of course would be limited polygyny, in which a man can be married to up to four wives.

-Can two Muslim wives live in the same house??
-Is it realistic for both wives to engage in a personal friendship relation?? (I suppose since they are living under the same roof, they can't just pretend that the other wife doesn't exist so they have to interact with each other)
-If there are any children, how do they get along with their step siblings??
-Is it common for Muslim women to approve themselves polygamy??
-In the Canadian Muslim community, is polygamy frowned-up??
-Is there any specific society within the Islamic world that is more lenient or that tends to approve more polygamy than others??

kool dude had some answers, which I have below with minor edits for clarity...

1. Yes, If a Husband has capacity to keep them in separate homes he can.. if not it's alright..

2. Yes, It's realistic.. Two wives can live like friends .. All three of them go to pilgrimage(Hajj) together.. .. But it all depends on Husband .. how he treats them both.. you have to be Strictly JUST. there are many examples.

3. You shouldn't put in the children's mind that they are your step siblings if they are not grown ups.. the word STEP has no significance in Islam..Its your seed. Step mom.Both are MOMS; they have to be respected equally.. by the siblings of both mothers..

4. Yes its frowned but They want to Adapt it because of Growing population of SINGLE MOMS.

5. All Muslim societies are knowledgeable today and are lenient towards polygamy.. But Muslim men seeing that many women are materialistic or other reason.... are happy with one.. Rich can always be polygamous.. But they have to be just

Saeed mujib Saadat…

In Islam if a man wants to marry another wife, his first wife MUST first agree to it otherwise it's not valid. What you said about Lebanon is True Husbands have to support both wives and all children...the wives must be treated equally. Sometimes they don't live in the same roof but others do. I know one friend who's mother is moving from one city to another. This because the wife wanted to move there. Personally i could not handle two women, it tends to be the wife ho wants the husband to marry somebody else.

I have no way of knowing if those answers are accurate or not. What is official policy or teaching might not be how things end up in practice. But I did find an interesting comment that backs this up over at Ms Magazine. The commentary references the Canadian poly trial and asks “Is Polygamy Inherently Bad For Women?” The author, Jessica Mack, isn’t convinced that it is.

The practice of taking numerous spouses, in and of itself, doesn’t seem to be the root cause of the problem. After all, there are clear examples of polyandry (in which one woman has several husbands, as opposed to polygyny, with one man and several women), but abuse and oppression of men in these cases rarely, if ever, comes up.

Perhaps instead, the problem with polygamy (or, really, polygyny) is that the legal structure of marriage codifies an underlying discrimination against women. Reports from polygamous communities often point to early and forced marriage, in which the institution of marriage serves as both a shield for, and weapon of, sexist behavior.

Also, polygamy is often practiced secretively and in cloistered religious communities that exist quite literally outside the norms of broader society. This situation can create impunity for those men who are abusing women.

Having polygamy, of which polygyny is just one form, legalized, will make it more difficult for abusers to get away with their misdeeds. Legalization takes away much of the fear and mistrust victims have when it comes to the government authorities.

Miah Shilpi makes it clear…

But, the simplified version is this: Polygamous marriage is not what hurts women - sexism in society is. All the conventions on how polygamous marriage hurt women - allowing and institutionalized underage sex/marriage, nonconsensual sex/marriage, domestic violence, isolating women, keeping them from have jobs, an education, or leading a fulfilling live, ect ect - were all hallmarks of monogamous marriage in our society just a century and a half ago. Because the role of sex and women in society has changed, so has the narrative of marriage, women's role in it. Abuse DOES happen in polygamous marriage...but it happens in monogamous marriage, too, and the cause isn't the structure of the marriage, but the structure of society and the role of sex/gender within it.

Christine has the comment I mentioned…

A few years ago, I was in Kenya for work. I had the opportunity to travel with one of my Kenyan colleagues to her father's home in a semi-rural area. Her father was in his 60s and was polygamous. While traveling there, my colleague told me the past few months had been very difficult at her father's house because his "first wife" had died. I said her father must be devastated and she responded that, yes, he was, but it was his second wife who was the most devastated. Seeing that I was baffled, she explained that the two wives were best friends and were each other's most important support system. The death of the first wife left the second wife with a devastating emotional hole and doubled work load overnight. I had never thought about the support system some women get from polygamy. Now that I am a wife and mother, I can understand the sentiment. I could certainly use a second wife to help me out - and I have a truly equal partner in my husband!

As long as a society has gender equality or nearly so, as long as people in that society have the freedom to refuse marriage and the freedom to divorce, full marriage equality, which includes the right to polygamous marriage, will benefit all. All includes women, of course! But even where there isn't gender equality, some women may genuinely desire to be part of the polygynous marriage.
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