If today North America and western Europe can legalize homosexuality, it’s just a matter of time and they will legalize polygamy and return to the grass root that Africa is the genesis of world cultures. Nonetheless the Mormons out there practice polygamy. Back to the drawing table, most communities in the world do practice polygamy in one way or the other, except in areas where the population of women is less than that of men wherefore they go for polyandry.
The difference between African polygamy and Whiteman’s polygamy is that, when a white husband thinks he has had enough of his wife and must change – as they say change is as good as rest – he manufactures reasons for divorcing his wife in order to create room for his second wife. If he’s not satisfied with the second wife he uses the same formula to have the second, the third wife, and so on. They refer to that version of polygamy as consecutive polygamy. Out there it’s common knowledge to hear of men who have married many times. Stories about “my ex-husband” and “my ex-wife” are popular. In that world, out of every five marriages, three end up in divorce.
In traditional Africa when a man wants to have another wife for a particular reason (there are many reasons) he doesn’t divorce the first wife. He retains her and goes for the second one. If he wants the third wife he still retains the two and goes for the third one. In other words, the African version of polygamy is husband is a collector of wives, as opposed to the Whiteman’s husband who is a disposer of wives. For comparison reason, the question is who, between the two, is more morally correct or civilized.
For those who defend polygamy from the Christian angle, there’s no single verse in the Bible which categorically dismisses polygamy. Over and above, going by the Bible, God’s heavy weight men were polygamous, flagged by King Solomon with his 1,000 wives of whom 300 were concubines. Religiously and morally speaking, what does King Solomon’s collection of wives mean?
There is no way of throwing polygamy out of the society successfully. In Africa, adoption of the monogamy is inviting divorces; hence, going for the Whiteman’s version of polygamy. In traditional Africa divorce was rare unlike today.
I went into detailed reasons behind polygamy in my published book, OUR KIND OF POLYAMY published by the “East Africa Educational Publishers.” However, it is important here to argue that, if polygamy has to survive today in the African noble approach, then specific joints have to be given serious consideration. Some of the traditional reasons for polygamy have been taken over by events. One of the strongest pillars of polygamy in traditional society was in the share of labour. A man with big livestock subjected to shifting grazing grounds had good reason to marry a wife to give him company during those shifting grazing places while the bigger family remained in a central place. In that world woman’s labour was more important than sex. It was rare to divorce because of sexual unfaithfulness. But in modern time sex appears to have taken priority for reasons which need serious address.
The labour share has changed drastically in the money world that we live in today, where you can employ someone to carry out duties which would have necessitated a man to have a second wife. A good example is in the domestic setup where today you need a hand to take care of your children and aging parents. This is the arrival of the housemaid, the yayah, the housekeeper. But often times the maid is facing a different challenge when her male employer takes advantage of her sexually. Many maids land in the social industry of pregnancy; hence the unprecedented female exploitation unheard of in traditional Africa where women enjoyed equal human rights. As the husband exploits the maid sexually his wife harasses the maid in one way or the other. This contributes heavily to the sector of crimes. On the other hand, money economy hasn’t been good news to woman’s integrity. There are too many women to be pitied in the money economy compared to those in the cow-economy. By all means, this is degeneration of the integrity of the family.
The nobility of polygamy has been frustrated by the money economy with no chances of reversal. In the traditional community polygamy was cheap. Not anymore. In that society when a man went for a second or third he had to fully provide for their independence in having their own homes. The wife was the home. Each wife was treated as a separate identity and the husband’s property would be divided according to how many “home” he had. The husband remained a bridge between his family homes.
Polygamy has become very expensive in the modern days of property. These are not the days all what a co-wife needed was a hut and share of the husband’s livestock. To build a permanent home today is almost a lifetime matter. When that home is complete the man can only be inviting disaster if he marries a second wife and instructs her, “Monika, you’ll live in this room and your co-wife will live in that one.” That, indeed, is unacceptable and inhuman. It lacks the African family integrity. In other words, it not easy for the husband to provide for equal accommodation to the wives unless he is a wealthy man. Besides, bringing up a family today is an awfully expensive affair. Talk about the cost of educating children and you will have touched the nerve centre.
So, what is the way forward if a man is pushed by circumstances to have another wife and yet remain traditional by keeping his other wife? Obviously, he has to have it through sweat and high discipline. Failure to that he would be better to be satisfied with monogamy at whatever cost. Let him marry another wife and he would live to realize that to manage two wives, leave alone more, is very expensive economically and morally. He would be buying his own heart attack or death by being bias to one wife against the other. He would be a safer polygamist if his wives are working and have an income. It is worse if one is working and the other one is not working.
That is, economic demands call shots regarding who shall be a successful polygamist morally. What men have today outside the polygamy field is dishonest borne by the hit-and-run games, perpetual cheating, changing wives like changing cars and divorce. This is the cause of the present domestic disharmony, violence, homosexuality, fatherless children and other social problems.
Notwithstanding, anyone who says polygamy is outdated doesn’t know what he is talking about. A chameleon can change its colour but it can’t change its behaviour. Man is a polygamous animal. The best that national family planners can do would be to look for a better modern version of polygamy and give it a national support. By all means, in traditional society polygamy played an integral part in stabilizing social order and the value of woman in the society. We are facing the hard consequences because we haven’t given polygamy the attention it deserves in modern civilization.