Polygamy In History: 4 Things To Know

Nov 18 '2022, 12:37 PM | By Chris

Having more than one spouse or wife, but officially polygyny is defined as having more women than males. Polyandry occurs when a woman has more than one spouse. Around the world, it comes in a variety of forms. In certain societies, brothers will share a single lady. In some, a father and his son share a woman. In some, men have several wives; in Ethiopia's Arsi area, that number might reach 11. In many cases, a widow's brothers, father, or even a son by another woman inherit the estate of her deceased husband.

Many nations have laws that protect women's rights, even if polygamy rules are often biased against women and enable males to have numerous marriages. For instance, in Burkina Faso, where polygamy is widespread, the couple must initially agree that the union would be polygamous before the husband is permitted to take another wife. Before granting a marriage contract with a second wife in Djibouti, a court takes into consideration the opinions of the current wives and looks into the husband's socioeconomic status.

How Common are Polygamous Relationships?

More than a thousand societies were surveyed by the University of Wisconsin in 1998. Only 186 of them were monogamous. 453 people experienced polygyny on occasion, and 588 more people had it rather frequently. Four of them were polyandrous.

Polygamy has allegedly been the norm throughout human history, according to certain anthropologists. According to a 2003 article in the New Scientist magazine, up until 10,000 years ago, very few males had fathered the majority of offspring. According to DNA variations, the distribution of X chromosomes indicated that certain males may have contributed more genes to the gene pool than others. However, the majority of women appeared to be able to pass on their genes. According to this, humans were at least "mildly polygynous" like their monkey ancestors.

The animist and Muslim populations of West Africa frequently practice polygamy. For instance, in Senegal, many women are reportedly involved in approximately 47% of marriages. In many Arab countries, it is still quite high; in Israel, it is around 30% among the Bedouin population. As many as 10,000 conservative Mormons, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, lived in polygamous homes in 2005.

How Did Polygamy Begin?

It is unknown to everyone, however, there are hints. It is especially prevalent in regions where pre-colonial economic activity was centered on subsistence farming, which demands a large amount of labor, with Africa serving as a notable example. High infant mortality rates might have a role; when many kids don't live past the age of five, families need more than one child-bearer to remain financially stable.

Next comes war. Having more than one wife increases the population most quickly when a lot of males die. A male figure could form more military and political connections the more wives he had. The number of spouses a man had become a measure of his wealth and position. A bigger family became something to be proud of, while a smaller one became a failure and disgrace signal. In contrast, polyandry is a strategy for controlling population increase in societies when there are insufficient resources and too many people. No matter how many spouses a woman has, she can only have a certain number of children. These factors were frequently overtly political.

Were Politics an Influence on Polygamy?

It was a societal practice to marry widows in order to provide for orphans. The Prophet Mohamed married several of his additional wives—a total of nine—because they were battle widows. He was in a monogamous relationship for 25 years until his first wife passed away. The Koran permits a Muslim to wed up to four women, but only provided he is capable of providing for them all equally. Similar widow inheritance practices were common in many traditional African civilizations in order to preserve the extended family and its assets.

Other political figures have benefited from similar advantages throughout history. In Germany, the Nüremberg parliament ruled in 1650 that each male might wed up to 10 women because so many men had died in the Thirty Years' War. President Bashir of Sudan advised males to have many wives in 2001, stating that China and India's enormous populations were to blame for those countries' quick economic progress.

What Does Polygamy Have to Do with Religion?

Christianity views polygamy as an insult to the value of marriage and maintains that a man and wife must have an undivided, exclusive, and mutual love. However, Krishna, a Hindu deity, had 16,108 wives. Several of the older men in the Hebrew scriptures, such as Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon, practiced polygamy. Concubines were also acceptable in Confucianism, but only in order to produce an heir, not for sexual diversity. Marriages for pleasure, which are also expressly forbidden by the Koran, are common among Muslim males, yet many do not.

Published By: Sister Wives 

Matchmakers Inc


Nov 28 '2022, 8:41 PM
Christianity might frown on but if anyone would just pick up the Bible and read they would realize that it is biblical just doesn't no one believe that old testament is biblical
Nov 29 '2022, 4:41 PM
I agree!
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