Polygamy is the practice of having two or more spouses. There are several types of polygamy: polygyny, where a man is married to several wives, and polyandry, where a woman is married to several husbands. There is also group polygamy, in which there are several husbands and wives in the relationship.
Polygamy is considered to be immoral in many modern communities, but it actually has been around for a long time and has been practiced in numerous societies and in many religions over the years. King Solomon, for example, was said to have 700 wives, while the prophet Muhammad was said to have 11 wives. Even in today’s modern times, there are countries that allow men to legally have multiple wives, as long as they can show that they can financially support their wives and children.
Many people look down at polygamy, but there are also those who point out that polygamy can bring about several benefits. If you’re not sure which side you should be on, take a look at some of the pros and cons of polygamy.
List of Pros of Polygamy
1. It ensures that widows and their children receive support.
Several societies practice levirate marriage, which inadvertently leads to polygamy in many cases. Levirate marriage means that the heir or the brothers of a deceased man will inherit his wife and assets, ensuring that the wife and her children will continue to receive financial support and live comfortable lives even when the original husband has passed away.
2. It keeps land within the family.
Polyandry is commonly practiced in areas where environmental resources are scarce. In the Himalayan Mountains, for example, brothers marry the same wife to ensure their family land stays intact. If they have different wives, they’ll have to split their land into smaller plots, which means each of them will have less land to farm and will end up producing less food.
3. It helps improve families’ economic and political standing.
Many societies around the world marry not for love but for economic reasons. Women and children often work on the family farm or are tasked to gather food and take care of the family’s animals. So, if a man has numerous wives and children, he’ll have more productive workers and can achieve economic prosperity. Since he has many children to marry off, he can create political ties with many other families and maintain good standing in the community.
4. It helps increase the population.
There are several instances wherein societies encourage polygamy to increase their population. In 2001, for example, the president of Sudan Omar Hassan al-Bashir pointed out that the country was rich in resources but didn’t have enough people to use these resources and help the nation develop at a faster rate. Because of this, President al-Bashir urged Sudanese men to take on several wives to boost the country’s population.
5. It helps maintain ties between families.
In many cases, polygamy is used to keep the ties between two families. In societies that practice sororate, for example, a man has to marry the sister of his deceased wife. This way, the family of the man and the family of his wife remains interconnected.
List of Cons of Polygamy
1. It is morally wrong in many societies.
Many societies see polygamy as something that doesn’t abide by natural and religious laws. The Roman Catholic church, for example, believes that the Lord wants His people to have loving monogamous relationships and condemns polygamy, saying that it goes against the moral law and offends the sanctity and dignity of marriage.
2. It prevents healthy and loving relationships from developing.
Many people believe that polygamous relationships are unhealthy simply because there are several individuals involved. The husband and wife cannot focus on just each other since they’ll have to share their time and body with other people. This, in turn, brings about feelings of jealousy; in polygyny, for example, a wife may feel hurt and neglected when her husband spends time with his other wives, even when he does so only to fulfill his obligations to them.
3. It can negatively affect children.
Several studies have shown that children who grow up in polygamous households have poor academic performance compared to those who grow up in monogamous families. There are several reasons for this; polygamous marriages often produce numerous children, which mean that the father and mother don’t have enough time to spend with their kids and express their love and affection. This, in turn, can affect the children’s mental and emotional growth.
If the family doesn’t have enough financial resources, the members won’t have access to nutritious food all the time. This can be harmful for younger children, who need vitamins and minerals to develop physically and intellectually. The lack of money can also prevent children from going to school; usually, their parents pull them out of school to help with the family farm or business and help in earning money. This can stunt their intellectual growth and prevent them from having a good education.
4. It can negatively affect women.
Polygyny is one of the most common forms of polygamy and, in many countries, it’s the only form of polygamy that’s permitted by the government. However, studies have shown that women in polygynous marriages have higher rates of psychological problems and have more issues in their marriage, family, and life satisfaction, compared to women who are in monogamous relationships. Experts theorize that this might be caused by the fact that women in polygynous unions often don’t experience love and affection from their husbands, and they may feel jealous of their husbands’ other wives.
Many husbands in polygynous relationships also become physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive because they feel that they have full control over their wives. This, in turn, can contribute to the unhappiness and psychological distress that their wives face.
Just like anything else, polygamy can bring about certain benefits but also has its drawbacks. Because of this, people should first know about its pros and cons to find out if entering a polygamous marriage is the right decision for them.