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Analysis of The Problems Related to Polygamy

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Polygamy has been around for as long as we have known. Its origins cannot be traced back to a specific point in time but it is shown in the bible that polygamy was practiced by the Ancient Hebrews. A study conducted by Anthropologist Berkowitz concluded that 83 percent of human societies permit polygamy. And throughout that time, polygamy has gone through multiple changes and different branches of polygamy, such as polygyny and polyandry. But polygamy, at its core, is a problem that while may not affect people living in the West Hemisphere, is a major growing problem for people in the East. Polygamy, a tradition practiced since early human history, has been a growing problem for modern society. As a society today, polygamy introduces problems such as women’s mental health suffering, financial problems, and problems with children growing up.

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Throughout history, women, for the most part, have been undermined and disrespected. While the treatment of women has tremendously increased in the West, the East still struggles with this. The treatment of women, while not good, gets worse in the situations of polygamous marriages. In Syria, polygamy is ingrained as a social norm. In Damascus, the capital of Syria, polygamous marriages make up 30 percent of marriages.

In 2013, Alean Al-Krenawi conducted a collected study of Syrian wives that were in polygamous marriages. “The study aimed to determine the psychological, self-esteem, family function, marital satisfaction, life satisfaction, and degree of agreement among polygamous women”. To determine this, Alean Al-Krenawi used the following research techniques: the symptoms checklist-90, the Rosenberg Self Esteem, the Satisfaction with Life Scale, the McMaster model of family function, and the Enrich marital satisfaction scale. The control group was a collection of monogamous Syrian wives.

Alean Al-Krenawi’s study’s results concluded that women in polygamous marriages suffered from lower self-esteem, less marital satisfaction, less life satisfaction, and more mental health symptomatology. First wives in polygamous marriages also tended to have more problems in every category than the Second or Third wives or monogamous wives. And overall, 76.6 percent of women in Polygamous marriages disagreed with polygamous marriages, compared to the 23.4 percent of women in Polygamous marriages that disagree with polygamy.

A big problem that has arisen with Polygamy is finances. Many researchers state that polygamy is practiced for economic efforts. In Cameroon, polygamy is both, an economic improver, as well as a problem. “Women and children are mainly viewed as producers in Cameroon (Thobejane and Flora 1059).” The wives are viewed upon the give birth to children, and to grow and tend gardens to sell. Unfairly, the husband retains all rights to the income from the garden, making their spouses upset. Wives, seeking to secure money for themselves, encourage their husbands to marry other women, to get out of their husband’s control, and gain income from the garden and do other things, such as find employment. This is a common theme in Cameroon. It is a circle of birth and forced labor. It is a problem that has been growing with Cameroon for a long time.

The economic problems of polygamy can affect anyone and everyone, including high-status people such as Presidents. In 2012, the then-current South African President, Jacob Zuma, married his sixth wife. With five other wives, he had 20 other children. Former President Jacob Zuma has come under scrutiny lately for not being able to afford his children’s school fees.

An economic problem that polygamy can carry is bigamy. Bigamy is when another person marries another person without dissolving their first contract. Bigamy is a crime in the United States and many other countries. While this sounds exactly like polygamy, the difference is that with polygamy, everyone is aware of their circumstances, while in Bigamy, they usually are not aware. Bigamy gives rise to Sequential Bigamists, people who never intend to have more than one spouse at any given time but who nonetheless marry more than one person in their lifetime (Higdon 127). Bigamy introduces a lot of deception. For example, people can be deceived into spending hundreds, thousands, a whole wedding, only for it to be invalid. You can purchase a car for your spouse on their request and not be aware that your current relationship status with them is that of bigamy.

Polygamy can negatively affect children. In Cameroon, children are forced to work. “Female children are taught to produce dowry, provide personal service, and are important in selling garden material.” Children become slaves to their families’ wishes. They, especially female children, are never given the opportunity to forge their identities. Because they grow up in this lifestyle, they carry their beliefs onto their next family and expect their children to do the same as they did.

In parts of Africa, polygamous marriages can make up to 50 percent of all marriages in the region. In African culture, according to Musimbi Kanyoro, a woman before she is married is “her father’s daughter”. After she is married, she is “the wife of her husband”. Essentially, since birth, girls born in polygamous marriages are taught to be role, to never be independent. Boys born in polygamous are taught to look down on girls and to repeat the cycle of marrying multiple women because that is the only thing they know.

In conclusion, Polygamy is a bad lifestyle. I am a firm believer in doing what makes you happy. If being in a polygamous marriage makes you happy, then so be it. But if doing what makes you happy harms anyone, or anything, then I do not approve of it. I do not claim to say that being in a Polygamous relationship inherently makes you a bad person, but you are fueling a growing problem. 

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