I have mentioned the cultural and societal reasons that I think have led to polygamy -specifically polygyny (a man with more than one wife) – being shunned. There is the debate as to whether this is fair as now all sorts of relationships are becoming accepted and even legally validated in many countries around the world.
The question of the discrepancy between allowing homosexual couples to be legally married and a man to take more than one wives has come up – with the former being often seen as slippery slope to the latter. But on the other hand, there are many positive articles and a certain acceptance of polyamory, so why is polyGYNY such a problem to many?
Because if women were allowed to have more than one husband then there would really be no argument, in the opinion of most. We can love who we want, however many we want, as long as everyone consents to the situation. This is what happens in many an ‘open’ relationship.
Polygamy – as in more than one wife – to the average person (including many Muslims), reeks of oppression and inequality. And there are, unfortunately, plenty of examples of injustice – but not in the original examples of the Prophet (PBUH).
It’s again, look at Islam not the Muslims when you want to make judgments about certain aspects of the religion. But, yes, there is no denying things are not equal for men and women when it comes to marriage options in Islam. Women, for a start, have a lot more choice when it comes to men.
For men, all married women are off limits. The thing is, as Muslims, we trust our Creator has given us certain limits because He (SWT) knows us better than ourselves. If that doesn’t fit with gender equality then tough, because however hard we try, men and women are not the same.
But what if marriage options were exactly equal for men and women, what if we were allowed to have more than one husband? Well, here are my personal reasons why I am glad there is no pressure or expectation to have more than one husband. Although I don’t find it hard to accept that I don’t have the polyandry option, maybe some women do.
At the age of 14 I learnt about polygamy and its various forms in my Social Science lessons. Polyandry, a woman having multiple husbands, was indeed rare but not unheard of.
The lesson given by my white, female teacher brought images of faraway tribeswomen with their palm leaved skirts, having men at their beck and call is all I can remember (this was the unpolitically-correct 80s), but it wasn’t discussed in any detail. I have since read about women in parts of India having more than one husband, even with brothers, seemingly out of necessity due to the lack of females available for marriage. These sort of articles rarely have a negative tone.
But if I look at it on a personal level (not necessarily a female level, but maybe the majority of women would feel like me?) could I handle more than one husband? I barely have enough energy for one and the demands that ensue. Not that I am resentful, but I have only one pair of arms and legs, one brain – and I’ll stir up the feminists out there – one womb.
The thought of having to deal with practicalities, let alone dealing with more than one man’s emotions (and they do actually have a lot of those, including jealousy in abundance) would be too much. Maybe the multiplied income could be seen as a plus, but who says I’m materialistic!
Of course, I am writing at a personal level, with my worldview of a what wife and husband’s roles are, but call me old-fashioned, would you really want to have another pair of socks to find or mother-in-law to please?
To be honest, I am amazed how men are able to look after more than one wife and family adequately – and am not entirely sure that many actually fulfill their responsibilities. Many men don’t consider the full implications of taking on another wife, mother-in-laws included, deeply enough.
I am perfectly happy with my marriage options, and I believe that even if polyandry were allowed in Islam, the whole polygamy thing would still be criticized. What do you think? Is gender equality the main issue for people who are against polygamy?
This post was originally published on the author’s blog: polygamy unpicked
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