By: Poelano Malema
Polyandry is the new buzz word in South Africa. Many people have expressed their division over the subject.
Marriage counsellor Thabo Maatjie says both polygyny and polyandry are not good for the family unit.
Disadvantages of being in a polygamous relationship
Polygyny has been in existence for centuries. Shows like ‘Uthando NeSthembu’ have attracted millions of viewers and given South Africans a glimpse into what goes on in a polygamous marriage.
Maatjie says women get themselves into polygamous relationships for several reasons.
“Being in a polygamous marriage is a calculated choice which some women make based on benefits or preference. The benefits are that one gets a sense of belonging (being married) and dependence (financial and physical security).”
However, the marriage counsellor says people need to be aware that polygyny is in most cases centered around the man’s needs.
“In actual fact polygamy benefits the man more than women. It is about him, his needs and desires, his legacy and lineage, how he can flaunt his physical and financial abilities using the women as a vehicle to achieve some,” says the marriage counsellor.
“In polygamous marriage the women belong to the man while their need for companionship depends on his time-table,” says the counsellor.
He adds that polygamy causes division in many families.
“In many polygamous marriages around us including on shows like ‘Uthando NeSthembu’ and the Zulu monarchy, we have witnessed the dysfunctions it has imposed in families, where there is no harmony or true relationship between the wives, and in some it has caused division amongst the children, dealing with legacies has become a nightmare evidently.”
The topic of polyandry sparked major debate in parliament and online after the Department of Home Affairs gazetted a new green paper for the Marriage Act.
In the new act, the government is proposing a recognition of polyandry, where a woman can marry more than one husband.
For many South Africans, they feel the act would bring equality, as currently, only men are allowed to have more than one spouse.
But Maatjie says the issue is deeper than equality.
“Polyandry is in fact some form of retaliation towards polygyny, a reflection of societal dysfunction that will create more harm to the core values of a family set-up,” says the counsellor.
“Many are only limiting it to women having the ability to do what men can do, but less attention is given to what family stands for. Many are looking at it from financial and physical benefits, but the issue of morals and values is lost,” he adds.
Maatjie adds that society needs to look at the complexity of polyandry.
“It will also be a one-sided thing where the woman will be the beneficiary, however, the process of a woman acquiring men will expose the fact that this will not work. Firstly, in polygyny, the man pays dowry to the women, will the same apply in polyandry where the woman pays dowry for the men?” he asks.
Apart from the issue of dowry, he says families will need to look at whether they will live in separate houses or one big house where the wife will have all her husband living under one room.
“In modern polygamy, every woman has her own house or room with her children (I’ve always wondered why the man cannot just have them in one room and perform his duties with all of them at the same time, but reality is that it won’t work and it reflects a dysfunctional and immoral family set-up), will polyandry work the same where the woman builds houses for all the men and she chooses who to be with when and how? Will it work for her if they all live under one roof in one bed?” says the counsellor.
He adds that people supporting polyandry need to look at how it will affect the children.
Martha Ntini, a woman who grew up in a family where her parents were in a polygamous marriage, says she does not advocate for polygyny or polyandry.
Martha says her father had four wives and had more than 20 children.
She says as children, they struggled to get things because her father couldn’t afford to feed all of them. She also says the women were the ones who struggled with the raising of their kids.
Not only that, but she says one of the most frustrating thing was watching her mother’s voice being taken away.
She also says the wives had no say in the marriage.
“A man with many wives doesn’t want to be told anything. He is the one who has the final say and makes all the rules. You can’t even advise him,” she says.
Martha says only children whose moms had jobs could afford certain things, because the man would not buy many of the things the children needed because he couldn’t afford to buy for so many children.
Martha says they couldn’t further their studies because her father couldn’t afford to take all of them to institutions of higher learning.
Martha says she even used to tell herself that if all men are into polygamy, she would rather not get married and would not advise any other women to be in a polygamous marriage.
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