What is Polyandry

Sep 30 | By Chris
What is Polyandry
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What is Polyandry?

This article is about polyandrous marriage practices.


Polyandry (/ˈpɒliˌændri, ˌpɒliˈæn-/; from Greek: πολυ- poly-, "many" and ἀνήρ anēr, "man") is a form of polygamy in which a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time. Polyandry is contrasted with polygyny, involving one male and two or more females. If a marriage involves a plural number of "husbands and wives" participants of each gender, then it can be called polyamory, group or conjoint marriage. In its broadest use, polyandry refers to sexual relations with multiple males within or without marriage.


Of the 1,231 societies listed in the 1980 Ethnographic Atlas, 186 were found to be monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry. Polyandry is less rare than this figure suggests, as it considered only those examples found in the Himalayan mountains (28 societies). More recent studies have found more than 50 other societies practicing polyandry.


Fraternal polyandry is practiced among Tibetans in Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India, in which two or more brothers are married to the same wife, with the wife having equal "sexual access" to them. It is associated with partible paternity, the cultural belief that a child can have more than one father.


Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources. It is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival. It is a rare form of marriage that exists not only among peasant families but also among the elite families. For example, polyandry in the Himalayan mountains is related to the scarcity of land. The marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows family land to remain intact and undivided. If every brother married separately and had children, family land would be split into unsustainable small plots. In contrast, very poor persons not owning land were less likely to practice polyandry in Buddhist Ladakh and Zanskar. In Europe, the splitting up of land was prevented through the social practice of impartible inheritance. With most siblings disinherited, many of them became celibate monks and priests.


Polyandrous mating systems are also a common phenomenon in the animal kingdom.


Types

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Polygynandry


In the Indian Himalayas, polyandry may be combined with polygyny to produce a system termed "polygynandry". The system results in less land fragmentation, a diversification of domestic economic activities, and lower population growth.


Fraternal polyandry


Fraternal polyandry (from the Latin frater—brother), also called adelphic polyandry, is a form of polyandry in which a woman is married to two or more men who are brothers. Fraternal polyandry was (and sometimes still is) found in certain areas of Tibet, Nepal, and Northern India, where polyandry was accepted as a social practice. The Toda people of southern India practice fraternal polyandry, but monogamy has become prevalent recently.In contemporary Hindu society, polyandrous marriages in agrarian societies in the Malwa region of Punjab seem to occur to avoid division of farming land.


Fraternal polyandry achieves a similar goal to that of primogeniture in 19th-century England. Primogeniture dictated that the eldest son inherited the family estate, while younger sons had to leave home and seek their own employment. Primogeniture maintained family estates intact over generations by permitting only one heir per generation. Fraternal polyandry also accomplishes this, but does so by keeping all the brothers together with just one wife so that there is only one set of heirs per generation. This strategy appears less successful the larger the fraternal sibling group is.


Some forms of polyandry appear to be associated with a perceived need to retain aristocratic titles or agricultural lands within kin groups, and/or because of the frequent absence, for long periods, of a man from the household. In Tibet the practice was particularly popular among the priestly Sakya class.


The female equivalent of fraternal polyandry is sororate marriage.


Partible paternity


Anthropologist Stephen Beckerman points out that at least 20 tribal societies accept that a child could, and ideally should, have more than one father, referring to it as "partible paternity". This often results in the shared nurture of a child by multiple fathers in a form of polyandric relation to the mother, although this is not always the case. One of the most well known examples is that of Trobriand "virgin birth". The matrilineal Trobriand Islanders recognize the importance of sex in reproduction but do not believe the male makes a contribution to the constitution of the child, who therefore remains attached to their mother's lineage alone. The mother's non-resident husbands are not recognized as fathers, although the mother's co-resident brothers are, since they are part of the mother's lineage.


Culture

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According to inscriptions describing the reforms of the Sumerian king Urukagina of Lagash (ca. 2300 BC), the earlier custom of polyandry in his country was abolished, on pain of the woman taking multiple husbands being stoned upon which her crime is written.[19]


An extreme gender imbalance has been suggested as a justification for polyandry. For example, the selective abortion of female fetuses in India has led to a significant margin in sex ratio and, it has been suggested, results in related men "sharing" a wife.


Known cases

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Polyandry in Tibet was a common practice and continues to a lesser extent today. A survey of 753 Tibetan families by Tibet University in 1988 found that 13% practiced polyandry. Polyandry in India still exists among minorities, and also in Bhutan, and the northern parts of Nepal. Polyandry has been practised in several parts of India, such as Rajasthan, Ladakh and Zanskar, in the Jaunsar-Bawar region in Uttarakhand, among the Toda of South India.


It also occurs or has occurred in Nigeria, the Nymba, and some pre-contact Polynesian societies, though probably only among higher caste women. It is also encountered in some regions of Yunnan and Sichuan regions of China, among the Mosuo people in China (who also practice polygyny as well), and in some sub-Saharan African such as the Maasai people in Kenya and northern Tanzania and American indigenous communities. The Guanches, the first known inhabitants of the Canary Islands, practiced polyandry until their disappearance. The Zo'e tribe in the state of Pará on the Cuminapanema River, Brazil, also practice polyandry.


Religious attitudes

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Hinduism


There is at least one reference to polyandry in the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata. Draupadi married the five Pandava brothers, as this is what she chose in a previous life. This ancient text remains largely neutral to the concept of polyandry, accepting this as her way of life. However, in the same epic, when questioned by Kunti to give an example of polyandry, Yudhishthira cites Gautam-clan Jatila (married to seven Saptarishis) and Hiranyaksha's sister Pracheti (married to ten brothers), thereby implying a more open attitude toward polyandry in Vedic society.


Judaism


The Hebrew Bible contains no examples of women married to more than one man, but its description of adultery clearly implies that polyandry is unacceptable and the practice is unknown in Jewish tradition. In addition, the children from other than the first husband are considered illegitimate, unless he has already divorced her or died (i.e., a mamzer), being a product of an adulterous relationship.


Christianity


Most Christian denominations in the Western world strongly advocate monogamous marriage, and a passage from the Pauline epistles (1 Corinthians 7) can be interpreted as forbidding polyandry.


Latter-Day Saints


Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and other early Latter-day Saints, practiced polygynous marriages. The practice was officially ended with the 1890 Manifesto. Polyandrous marriages did exist, albeit in significantly less numbers, in early LDS history.


Islam


Although Islamic marital law allows men to have up to four wives, polyandry is prohibited in Islam.


Polyandrous marriages were practiced in pre-Islamic Arabian cultures, but were outlawed during the rise of Islam. Nikah Ijtimah was a pagan tradition of polyandry in older Arab regions which was condemned and abolished during the rise of Islam.


In biology

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Polyandrous behavior is quite widespread in the animal kingdom. It is prominent in many species of insects and fish (for example pipefish; see Polyandry in fish). It is also found in other animals such as birds (for example dunnocks), whales, and in some mammals such as the house mouse.


Among the whales, polyandrous behavior has been noted among the bowhead, harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), and humpback whales.


Among the relevant insect species are the honeybees, the red flour beetle, the species of spider Stegodyphus lineatus, the crickets Gryllus bimaculatus, and the fruit fly Drosophila pseudoobscura.


Polyandry also occurs in some primates such as marmosets, and in the marsupial genus' Antechinus.



SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org

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