Imagine a young girl of twelve marrying a man of forty whom she has never seen before and being forced to produce children until her body is physically unable to perform a safe pregnancy. Imagine the girl being brainwashed and beaten for contradicting with a belief held by another man and forced to stay in her community for her entire life without knowing anything of the outside world. This scary world exists not just in imagination, but in the form of marriage known as polygamy.
Found in almost every country, including the United States but prevalently in Islamic socitey, the practice is considered a right to a select few and a bane to the majority of others. Polygamy is a way of life that should not be allowed in society due to the fact that it creates male-dominated marriages, forces women into subordinate roles, and produces unworkable families full of strife, abuse and incest. Polygamy is a form of marriage in which a person has more than one spouse at a time; it most often occurs in the form of polygyny, when a man has multiple wives.
Although the practice has been illegal in the United States for over one hundred years, it is estimated that over 30,000 citizens are involved in plural marriages. Although marriage is considered to be the mutual forming of a bond between a couple, in many polygamous marriages women are forced into the role of wife. They have no choice but to become subservient to their husband. From an early age they are taught of male dominance and are brainwashed by their culture and religion to refuse to the polygamy practice. Practice of polygamy in religion
Polygamy is a very ancient practice found in many human societies. The Bible did not condemn polygamy. To the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic writings frequently attest to the legality of polygamy. King Solomon is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Also, king David is said to have had many wives and concubines. The Old Testament does have some injunctions on how to distribute the property of a man among his sons from different wives. The only restriction on polygamy is a prohibit on taking a wife’s sister as a rival wife.
Jews continued to practice polygamy until the sixteenth century. Oriental Jews regularly practiced polygamy until they arrived in Israel where it is forbidden under civil law. The Quran, contrary to the Bible, limited the maximum number of wives to four under the strict condition of treating the wives equally and justly. It should not be understood that the Quran is exhorting the believers to practice polygamy, or that polygamy is considered as an ideal. In other words, the Quran has “tolerated” or “allowed” polygamy, and no more, but why? Why is polygamy permissible ?
The answer is simple: there are places and times in which there are compelling social and moral reasons for polygamy. As Quranic verse indicates, the issue of polygamy in Islam cannot be understood apart from community obligations towards orphans and widows. Islam as a universal religion suitable for all places and all times could not ignore these compelling obligations. Eventhough that is what Quran said most men practices it due to their success demonstration in their economy and social, us we saw it in Xala movie El hajd didn’t marry his third wife because she was widow or orphan.
In most human societies, females outnumber males. In the U. S. there are, at least, eight million more women than men. In a country like Guinea there are 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania, there are 95. 1 males per 100 females. What should a society do towards such unbalanced sex ratios? There are various solutions, some might suggest celibacy, others would prefer female infanticide (which does happen in some societies in the world today ! ). Others may think the only outlet is that the society should tolerate all manners of sexual permissiveness: prostitution, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality, etc.
For other societies , like most African societies today, the most honorable outlet is to allow polygamous marriage as a culturally accepted and socially respected institution. The point that is often misunderstood in the West is that women in other cultures do not necessarily look at polygamy as a sign of women’s degradation. For example, many young African brides , whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise, would prefer to marry a married man who has already proved himself to be a responsible husband. The problem of the unbalanced sex ratios becomes truly problematic at times of war.
Native American Indian tribes used to suffer highly unbalanced sex ratios after wartime losses. Women in these tribes, who in fact enjoyed a fairly high status, accepted polygamy as the best protection against indulgence in indecent activities. European settlers, without offering any other alternative, condemned this Indian polygamy as ‘uncivilised’ After the second world war, there were 7,300,000 more women than men in Germany (3. 3 million of them were widows). There were 100 men aged 20 to 30 for every 167 women in that age group.
Many of these women needed a man not only as a companion but also as a provider for the household in a time of unprecedented misery and hardship. The soldiers of the victorious Allied Armies exploited these women’s vulnerability. Many young girls and widows had liaisons with members of the occupying forces. Many American and British soldiers paid for their pleasures in cigarettes, chocolate, and bread. Children were overjoyed at the gifts these strangers brought. A 10 year old boy on hearing of such gifts from other children wished from all his heart for an ‘Englishman’ for his mother so that she need not go hungry any longer.
We have to ask our own conscience at this point: What is more dignifying to a woman? An accepted and respected second wife as in the native Indians’ approach, or a virtual prostitute as in the ‘civilised’ Allies approach? It is interesting to note that in an international youth conference held in Munich in 1948 the problem of the highly unbalanced sex ratio in Germany was discussed. When it became clear that no solution could be agreed upon, some participants suggested polygamy. The initial reaction of the gathering was a mixture of shock and disgust.
However, after a careful study of the proposal, the participants agreed that it was the only possible solution. Consequently, polygamy was included among the conference final recommendations. Polygamy and its impact on mental and emotional health of women and children Children develop self-esteem and a sense of well-being when they are raised in a nurturing and loving environment. If abandoned by either parent, children may feel unwanted or unloved. When attention and praise are withdrawn, or absent, children often respond by becoming anxious and depresses. we heard many real life story of abused women and children coming rom broken families.
I was brought up in a society who are 60% practice polygamy and friend with who are abandoned women and children due to polygamy. Brought up with neglected wives’ and children suffering from emotional abuse and misuse of polygamy, I concluded that Children in polygamous household can experience a greater risk of neglect from their parents when father’s love and support is absent, distorted, or divided unequally. Young children are directly affected by their mothers’ emotions and in polygamous families their rate of depression and anxiety is positively correlated with their mothers’ sense of insecurity and depression.
A high number of these children exhibit symptoms of severe depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self destructive behavior with tendency towards violence. It is emotionally devastating for children when their mothers are abandoned in favor of new wives”. Furthermore, preferential treatment of children according to who is their mother causes a sense of lack of worth for children in polygamous households. Children of the first wife often feel abandoned and unwanted when the father neglects them and their mother, in favor of newer wives and their children.
Domestic violence is a serious risk in these households as parents may attack one another or the children of less favored wives, or the children from one mother may attack the children from a different mother. Aside from the actual physical harm experienced by young victims of domestic violence, this abusive environment can seriously affect the victims’ mental development and health. This in turn increases the chance that they become perpetrators of acts of violence. The health of the mother, mentally and physically, also has an effect on the development of the child, as early as in the womb.
When a mother feels anxious, this anxiety is transmitted to the child and increases the child’s risk for mental illness. When mothers worry about the stability of the household, children become insecure. This may affect their performance in school or how they interact with family members and other children. In one case, three young sisters supported by Ensan charity center all quit school due to lack of motivation and severe depression. Economically, polygamy makes it even more difficult for a father to provide for all of his children because it becomes more likely that he will have many children.
Even fathers who wish to be involved in the lives of all of their children find that they must spend most of their time away from their family in order to provide financial security for their children and wives. When fathers fail to do so, the consequences are dire. Children and mothers experience emotional and financial depravation. In an attempt to find a sense of self-worth, belonging or a father figure, these children are more vulnerable to following people who encourage them to engage in violent behavior.
Those children who do not behave aggressively towards others may often turn to drugs or alcohol, experience mental and emotional difficulties, or they may exhibit some kind of behavioral problems. The difficulties of being a supportive, loving father are often noticed by the fathers themselves. One illustration of the difficulties may be found in the International Herald Tribune account of the life of Abdu Hemmed Bekit,, who lives in Qatar with his five wives, 65 children and 82 grandchildren. When interviewed about his large family he says that he regrets not having only one wife.
In order to prevent wives from competing with one another, he was forced to build their homes far apart, which made it harder for him to spend time with all of his children. Bekit is so opposed to polygamy that he has forbidden his sons to take more than one wife and has taught all of his daughters to refuse to become second wives. His feelings come not out of shame, but a reality check. He now knows that his wives would become jealous of one another and pick on the weakest ones. On several occasions, he has come across children that he did not realize were his.
Feeding, clothing and sheltering so many children have also been large financial challenges for Bekit. However, as a successful businessman of his village, Bekit has been able to provide for his family. But this is often not the case. It is quite common for fathers to abandon their families when they cannot provide for them. Frequently, the eldest sons will drop out of school in order to find jobs to support the family. This in turn makes it more unlikely that he will be able to support his own family when it is time for him to marry. These various difficulties illustrate that the practice of polygamy affects everyone in the family.
Polygamy can endanger family, the pillar of the society in the most serious way. If the family structure collapses, the wreckage is felt by all. If a man takes more than one wife, he is commanded to treat them all equally. But, who ensures that all the wives and children are treated equally and justly? Are the men able to recognize their unjust behavior ever? Are those who misuse religion guide-line of polygamy ever able to recognize their unjust behavior? We covered the sad story in Her Three Days and Xala movie, where there any wife or children happy about the third or fourth marriage?
Weren’t they very sad? A common theme throughout both Xala and Things Fall Apart is the practice of polygamy. Both texts, examine the effects of polygamous life for both the husband and wives. The ideas of masculinity and femininity within marriage and polygamous society are scrutinized within the novels, giving the reader a broader picture of the cultural dimensions of polygamy. The two texts, varying greatly in style and subject, highlight the differences of both rural vs. urban polygamy and traditional vs. modern polygamy.
The marriages of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart represent traditional, rural polygamy, which is an accepted social norm within Ibo society. Okonkwo’s wives live together in what might be called a “sisterhood” within the family farm. In contrast, El Hadji’s marriages in Xala represent modern, urban polygamy, a practice that is tied to an individual’s religion (Islam) and economic success rather than the society as a whole. Despite the variances of polygamy within the novels, both highlight the effects on the perception of masculinity and femininity within polygamous relationships.
Both novels highlight that the number of wives a polygamous man can acquire and support is a direct reflection on his masculinity. With these wives, he is expected to be a caretaker and provider, but constantly assert his dominance, as to not appear weak. Alternatively, the wives of polygamous marriages are encouraged to be passive and complacent, the picture of perfect feminine etiquette. They are supposed to show no jealousy or hatred towards their fellow wives, even as they compete for their husband’s affections.
They are to know their status as objects of their husband. To prevent domestic abuse and social disintegrations, each member of the Society must have an interest for the welfare of women and children. The suffering of neglected wives and children should be everyone’s concern. If authorities do not concern themselves with the family welfare, the society becomes weaker, for the status of families has a profound impact on the strength or the weakness of society. Ultimately, when Women and children suffer, society suffers and pays the price as a whole.

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