Polygamy arises due to marriage. Marriage is defined as the approved social pattern in which two or more persons come together to establish a family. Traditional tribal societies, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians view marriage as an important aspect that leads to the development of humankind. All assume that marriage only takes place in such an instance when a love relationship exists between two different people.
Polygamy is therefore, defined as a form of marriage in which a man, as the head of the family, can have more than one wife at the same time. It is also defined as the other side of the coin when it comes to monogamy. Polygamy is also represented and discussed as an expanded family structure that is traced to the type of marriages in which a husband has two or even more than two wives. Polygamy is still prominent in African countries and especially the sub-Saharan Africa, despite the challenges that this type of institution poses. Polygamy still exists as either being recognized or unrecognized by the state.
Causes of Polygamy include cultural practices and social status reasons:
African traditional societies viewed monogamy as the natural form of marriage. According to essay writers at SolidEssay who have written hundreds of academic papers on polygamy, a monogamous married man in most of the African communities could not stand and speak in front of seated polygamous married men; they were regarded as weak men and thus, could not stand up for his responsibilities in the society. This is one of the reasons which led to most of the African men to be polygamous in order for them to fit into the social classes. Wife inheritance is also another cultural characteristic that allows men to inherit the wife when the husband dies.
In most cases in African societies, people and persons who were economically stable would marry more than one wife. The poor ones would go for a monogamous marriage for economic stability. It was regarded as a symbol realizing economic success. Children, especially the boys in a family, could provide cheap labor and a source of family protection. Cheap labor also ensured that the family realized higher income generations. The family’s socio-economic stability was then achieved or realized.
Children are often believed to usher in joy to the family. The desire for children is hence, one of the main reasons as to why people marry and some get married. In cases where a wife does not bear children, a man brings the second wife in search of children. The problem might be that the man himself is not in a position to sire children but often the women are blamed.
When men are transferred to work in towns, cities, or places far away from home, African traditional societies allow them to have another woman who will stay with him while away from home for work reasons.
According to WorldCat, 99 percent of polygamous married men use this reason as justification for their undertakings.
Challenges of Polygamy
Partiality of husbands: this is where favoritism comes in. A situation in which a husband favors a certain wife and children. This causes conflicts within the family, between wives and between children and their father.
Impotence: this is a situation in which a man is traumatized because of proving to himself that he cannot sire children even after getting married to more than two wives. Conflicts in the family arise accusing him of not being sincere and not being “a man enough.”
Competition and opposition: this is where the wives compete for love and power. This makes them enemies and not friends which in essence, directly affects their marriage and indirectly, affects their children.
Gossip: this is where a wife shares marriage problems with other outsiders like friends. It’s a major weakness in a polygamous marriage because a wife will talk ill of the other wife and her children.
Lack of trust: it is often true that women in a polygamous marriage do not trust each other. When one wife sees the husband with the other wife, she starts believing they are talking about her.
Education: this division arises when there is disparity in education. Children from a certain woman may be educated while the other may be non-educated. This raises conflicts among families.
Impact of polygamy
Women’s proactive power was really of great importance to her husband. It served as a way of strengthening her husband’s power. This is one of the reasons women acknowledged and accepted. They were regarded as “women producers” with a principal intention in securing their marriages and as a way of making their husbands happy. In case a woman failed to deliver or give birth to a child, she got divorced. In other words, this culture made women lose their identity as individuals. They were only recognized by the number of children who they would give birth to and boys were superior to girls. This is an oppressive and unfair lifestyle and culture within the cycle of marriage to an African woman.
The expectation of a polygamous marriage is a high number of children. The inability to provide the needs to such high families has constantly put pressure on the heads of the family (husbands.) There used to be a measure of a “real man” in the African context. The above problems often led to conflicts in the family and in advanced cases to family break-ups. The failure of a man to manage and control his wealth effectively could often diminish his economic power, reputation and respect accorded by the society. As a result, this could lead to humiliation, frustration and psychological trauma to the man.
Although, since wealth is one of the decisive factors put into scale by a man before going for multiple wives, few of them will have enough resources to gather for their women and children. This will make the husband spread or distribute the limited resources among the women. In this case, women in polygamous marriages experience limited resources and financial support as compared to women in monogamous marriages.
Wife inheritance also creates problems both for the children and the wife. The husband might act partially on how he treats the inherited wife and children in regards to his own wife and children. This creates family conflicts between children as well as permits wives to usher in pain rather than pleasure to the family.
In conclusion, this marriage setup called polygamy not only affects the husband and wife, but also cascades problems down into the lives of children who are the products as a result of marriage. Children become the victims of circumstances which they have no control over. This problematic and conflicting family issue instills trauma in children which affects their studies and the social approach to life.
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