Thursday, April 26, 2012

Polygamy is Traditional Marriage in Various Cultures

Fatima Asmal-Motala had an article "A History of Multiple Bedmates," but as we know, polygamy is almost always about much more than sharing a bed. There are a few other things I don't think are entirely accurate in this article, too.
Although "polygamy" (also known as polygyny) is generally understood to mean a marriage in which a man has multiple wives, the term has broader scope. In fact, it refers to three types of practices: polyandry, in which a woman has multiple simultaneous husbands; polygamy, which entails a man having multiple simultaneous wives; and group marriage, where the family unit consists of multiple husbands and wives.
Polygyny is a form of polygamy just like polyandry is. But the writer left out marriages consisting of three or more people of the same gender.

Out of 1231 societies noted in the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook -- derived from American anthropologist George P Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, which recorded the marital composition of societies from 1960 to 1980 -- 186 of those societies were monogamous, 453 had occasional polygamy, 588 had more frequent polygamy and four had polyandry.
So we can see again that the claim that the only relationship that is marriage is a monogamous, heterosexual marriage just doesn't hold up. We should remember, too, that many societies that say that monogamy is the norm actually have much serial monogamy and "monogamous" marriages in which others are involved (ongoing or short-term threesomes, swinging, swapping, affairs, cheating, etc.)

In the United States polygamy has had a long history and many Native American tribes practised it. European "mountain men" also adopted the practice, often taking on native wives.

Today, both Hindus and Christians strongly discourage polygamy, although it is thought to have been practised by historical figures in both religions. The Hindu god Lord Krishna had 16 108 wives and the Old Testament mentions the polygamy of patriarchal figures within the Christian faith.

There are Christian and Hindu groups that allow or encourage polygamy.
Polygamy is technically not forbidden in Jewish law, but these days it usually only occurs in non-European Jewish communities, such as those in Arab countries that do not legally prohibit it.
Islam permits a man to marry a maximum of four women, provided he treats them equitably in terms of financial support as well as division of time between them.
Historically, polygamy has been practised all over Africa as an aspect of culture, religion or both. It continues to be prevalent in West Africa, but the diffusion of Islam to this region has meant that, unlike before, there are now restrictions on the number of women a man may marry.
The polygamous freedom to marry is part of full marriage equality. An adult, regardless of creed, gender, or sexual orientation, should free to marry any consenting adults. We can respect cultural diversity by allowing adults to make their own choices.
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