Polygyny and Polyandry, The Present Status

Posted on January 17, 2010

Sharon Panackal:

Polygyny and Polyandry, vastly prevalent all over Asia, are conditions about which people have not voiced their thoughts to a great deal. There aren’t a lot of visible differences in the way we view those two practices. But the way our society has written the future of a polygynist and a polyandrist are quite different.

Polygyny is the most common form of polygamy. Polygyny, the practice of a man marrying more than one woman, is practiced widely in the Islam religion and is mentioned in religious books including the ultimate bestseller of all the times, the Bible. Thousands of years from the beginning of the Christian era, as per the mentioning in Bible, people like Abraham and Jacob, and the wife of Jude, who stayed very close to the Lord had correspondingly practiced Polygyny and Polyandry.

It might be possible that at that time Polygyny was a way of working out things in a family. When man looked after his family by hunting, there might have been a lot of work to be done at home. In that case, marrying more than one woman would have made it easy for the family members to complete all those works within the home. As hunting was one of the major ways of supporting the family at that time, the male head died in many cases, while tracking and killing animals. In such a case, his brother was supposed to marry the widow in order look after her children.

Years ago both these customs were accepted by the people and were practiced by them. However, traveling through two thousand and nine years of the Christian era, people started understanding the negative consequences of these practices and therefore started limiting the number of family members.

Nevertheless there are people who still practice these customs around us. Our current societies of Asia seem to be justifying Polygyny rather than Polyandry. It has become a familiar thought that a wealthy man can have more than one wife whereas in case of a woman, it is more like a way of “protecting” herself. Having more than one wife is considered as a matter of power and pride for a man. But a woman who marries more than one man becomes neglected and disliked by the society.

This is reflected in some of the norms that we follow since decades. If a husband dies, it becomes the fate of his wife; people say it was due to her evil eye that her husband passed away. While if a wife dies, the society asks her husband for a second marriage. And thus, instead of becoming a widower just like the women are likely to become a widow, men in our society are expected to remarry. These ways might have revolved with time and made Polygyny a matter-of-fact in ordinary living. As a result while a polygynist leads quite a satisfactory and conventional life, a polyandrist, a woman who is married to more than one man, has to listen to the curse of natives behind her.

Even if the society views both of them at the same scale, as the number of family members increases, the occurrence of troubles created by jealousy, neglect, diseases, division of the inherited property and children who had never got any affection or concern of either one of their parents also bumps up within the family. Accordingly, when the positives of Polygamy include a considerate division of household works, its negatives covers both the social and economic situations of living. This teaches us a new approach towards the issue; people who want to be content with their life should avoid the custom of Polygamy and make their life peaceful and pleasing with one partner throughout their life time.

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