What is Polyandry

Oct 14 '2021, 6:05 PM | By Chris
What is Polyandry

Table of Contents

Definition of Polyandry

Polyandry (/plunder, plan-/; Greek: - poly-, "many" and v and, "man") is a type of polygamy in which a woman marries two or more men at the same time. Polygyny, on the other hand, involves one male and two or more females. Polyamory, group, or conjoint marriage refers to a wedding that includes a plural number of "husbands and wives" members of each gender. Polyandry refers to sexual encounters with numerous guys within or outside of marriage in its widest sense.

Polyandry in Different Cultures

There were 186 monogamous groups among the 1,231 societies described in the 1980 Ethnographic Atlas; 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry. Polyandry is less common than this number implies, as it solely considers cases discovered in the Himalayan mountains (28 societies). Polyandry is practiced in more than 50 other civilizations, according to current research.

Tibetans in Nepal, portions of China, and northern India practice fraternal polyandry, in which two or more brothers marry the same lady and have equal "sexual access" to them. It's linked to partible paternity, which refers to the cultural notion that a kid can have many fathers.

Polyandry is thought to be more common in civilizations with limited natural resources. It is believed to help children survive by limiting human population increase. It is an uncommon type of marriage that may be seen among peasant households and the upper crust. Polyandry, for example, is linked to the land shortage in the Himalayan mountains. When all family brothers marry the same woman, the family land remains intact and undivided. If each brother married and produced children independently, the family land would be divided into unsustainable tiny pieces. In Buddhist Ladakh and Zanskar, on the other hand, very impoverished people without land were less likely to practice polyandry. The social practice for the impartible inheritance was used in Europe to avoid land division. Many of their siblings became celibate monks and priests after being disinherited.In the animal realm, polyandrous mating systems are also a widespread occurrence.

Types of Polyandry


Polyandry and polygyny can join the Indian Himalayas to form a system known as "polygynandry." Land fragmentation is reduced, domestic economic activities are diversified, and population increase is reduced due to the system.

Fraternal Polyandry

Polyandry between brothers is referred to as fraternal polyandry.

Fraternal polyandry, also known as adelphic polyandry (from the Latin fraternity), is a kind of polyandry in which a woman marries two or more brothers. Polyandry was (and still is) practiced in certain regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Northern India, where it was recognized as a societal practice. Fraternal polyandry is practiced among the Toda people of southern India. However, monogamy has lately become popular. Polyandrous marriages in rural cultures in the Malwa area of Punjab appear to occur in modern Hindu society to prevent the partition of farming land.Fraternal polyandry accomplishes a purpose comparable to primogeniture in nineteenth-century England. The eldest son received the family land due to primogeniture, while younger boys were forced to leave home and seek their job. By allowing just one successor each generation, primogeniture kept family holdings intact for decades. Fraternal polyandry achieves the same result, but keeping all of the brothers together with only one bride, resulting in only one set of heirs every generation. The bigger the fraternal sibling group, the less effective this technique appears to be.

Some types of polyandry appear to be linked to a perceived necessity to keep aristocratic titles or agricultural holdings within family groupings, as well as the frequent departure of a male from the household for lengthy periods. The priestly Sakya elite in Tibet was particularly fond of the practice.Sorority marriage is the female counterpart to fraternal polyandry.

Partible Paternity

At least 20 tribal groups, according to anthropologist Stephen Beckerman, recognize that a kid might, and ideally should, have more than one father, a concept known as "partible paternity." It frequently leads to many dads sharing the care of a child in a polyandric relationship with the mother. However, this is not always the case. Trobriand's "virgin birth" is one of the most well-known instances. The matrilineal Trobriand Islanders understand the role of sex in reproduction, but they do not think the male contributes to the kid's constitution. Therefore, the infant stays solely connected to their mother's lineage. Because they are part of the mother's lineage, the non-resident spouses of the mother are not acknowledged as dads. However, the mother's co-resident brothers are.

Polyandry in the Ancient Culture

According to inscriptions documenting the reforms of Sumerian king Urukagina of Lagash (ca. 2300 BC), the previous Sumerian custom of polyandry was prohibited in his kingdom, under pain of the woman accepting several husbands being stoned and her crime inscribed on her body.

Polyandry has been justified by a severe gender imbalance, according to some. Selective abortion of female fetuses, for example, has resulted in a substantial sex ratio margin in India, which has been claimed to result in related males "sharing" a woman.

Known Cases of Polyandry

Polyandry was prevalent in Tibet and is being practiced to a lesser level now. In a 1988 study of 753 Tibetan households, Tibet University discovered that 13% practiced polyandry. Polyandry persists among India's minorities, as well as in Bhutan and Nepal's northern regions. Polyandry has been practiced among the Toda of South India in Rajasthan, Ladakh, and Zanskar and in the Jaunsar-Bawar area of Uttarakhand.

It has also been reported in Nigeria, the Nymba, and certain pre-contact Polynesian tribes, albeit most likely exclusively among women of upper castes. It is also found in the Yunnan and Sichuan areas of China, among the Mosuo people of China (who also practice polygyny), and in some Sub-Saharan African groups, such as the Maasai people of Kenya and northern Tanzania, as well as indigenous populations in the United States. Polyandry was practiced by the Guanches, the first known inhabitants of the Canary Islands, until their extinction. Polyandry is also practiced by the Zo'e tribe in the Brazil's state of Pará, near the Cuminapanema River.

Religious Attitudes to Polyandry

Polyandry in Hinduism

The Mahabharata, an ancient Hindu epic, has at least one allusion to polyandry. Draupadi picked the Pandava brothers in a former life and wedded them. Polyandry is accepted as a way of life in this ancient book, which is mostly indifferent to the notion. When asked for an example of polyandry by Kunti, Yudhishthira mentions Gautam-clan Jatila (married to seven Saptarishis) and Hiranyaksha's sister Pracheti (married to 10 brothers), suggesting a more liberal attitude toward polyandry in Vedic culture.

Polyandry in Judaism

Although there are no examples of women married to more than one man in the Hebrew Bible, its depiction of adultery plainly suggests that polyandry is undesirable and is not practiced in Jewish tradition. Furthermore, unless he had previously divorced her or died (i.e., a mamzer), children from other than the first spouse are regarded illegitimate since they are the result of an adulterous relationship.

Polyandry in Christianity

Most Christian faiths in the Western world strongly promote monogamy, and a verse from Paul's epistles (1 Corinthians 7) can be read as prohibiting polyandry.

Polyandry in Latter-Day Saints

Polygynous marriages were practiced by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early Mormon leaders. With the 1890 Manifesto, the practice was formally stopped. In early LDS history, polyandrous marriages did exist, but in far smaller numbers.

Polyandry in Islam

Polyandry is forbidden in Islam, despite the fact that Islamic marriage law allows males to have up to four wives.Polyandrous marriages were common in pre-Islamic Arabian societies, but they were prohibited when Islam spread. Nikah Ijtimah was a pagan polyandry tradition that was denounced and destroyed after the advent of Islam in older Arab countries.

Polyandry in Biology

In the animal realm, polyandrous behavior is fairly common. Many bug and fish species have it (for example, pipefish; see Polyandry in fish). Other creatures that have it include birds (such as dunnocks), whales, and mammals like the house mouse.The bowhead whale, harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), and humpback whales have all been seen to be polyandrous.

Honeybees, red flour beetles, spiders like Stegodyphus lineatus, crickets like Gryllus bimaculatus, and fruit flies like Drosophila pseudoobscura are among the important insect species. Some primates, such as marmosets, including the marsupial species Antechinus, are polyandrous.


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