Plural marriage, bred of inequality, begets violence. IT IS a truth universally acknowledged, or at least widely accepted in South Sudan, that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of many wives. A news website put it at in February, after one of the youngest of them ran off to marry a teacher. The couple were said to be in hiding. Men in South Sudan typically marry as often as their wealth—often measured in cattle—will allow.
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For generations, anthropologists have told their students a fairly simple story about polyandry—the socially recognized mating of one woman to two or more males.
- Most countries which permit polygamy are Muslim-majority countries in which polygyny is permitted.
- In the past five days, three pastors and an elder have asked me to respond to this question.
- Links One Wife?
- When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, sociologists call this polygyny.
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In Australia, marriage is changing. Cohabitation and kids before marriage are becoming the norm, and soon — hopefully — Australians will be allowed to marry a person of the same sex. But one thing that remains resolutely unchanged is the number of people who make a marriage.
In Australia, a legal and social consensus firmly sets that number at two. While polygamy - the marriage of more than one spouse at the same time - is one of the last remaining taboos of Western society, it is relatively common globally. Polygamy is legal in 58 out of countries around the world, including across much of Africa and in many Middle Eastern states.
The frequent disparity in marriage rights given to men and women in countries that permit polygamy is one of the reasons the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended in a report that polygamy be outlawed. Polyandry, where a woman takes more than one husband, is a much rarer practice. Plural marriage was permitted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between and Though it could be something he ate.
Elder Dudfield says that polygamous groups and individuals in and around Utah, like the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints FLDS , the subject of the notorious Short Creek Raid in as well as more recent raids in the s, are a source of confusion for outside observers. While the LDS Church has moved away from plural marriage, other faiths permit polygyny. Islam allows men to take up to four wives, albeit with conditions polyandry is not allowed. A husband must provide for and treat each of his wives equally, and consent is crucial.
Ideally, each wife lives in a separate household. His father took a second wife when his first wife became ill, and the man says the two women formed a strong friendship. Polygamy in Islamic culture has its roots in an historic gender imbalance caused by the deaths of large numbers of men in war. Plural marriage helped protect the welfare of widows and reduce the number of unwed — and thus unprovided-for-women.
The supporter of polygamy I spoke to sees it as the natural solution to a surplus of women he says still exists today though not according to Census data , which found a surplus of year-old single men and equal numbers of single men and women in their 30s. He also considers it a better alternative to the adultery that is so common in Western society.
A woman wilfully and knowingly walks into this relationship because in her mind, this is an ideal relationship for her. In the unlikely event polygamy is legalised, it is hard to imagine large numbers of single women in Australian society signing up to be second wives.
The Muslim community member I spoke to concedes that the practice is extremely rare in Australia. The lack of consensus in the Muslim community about polygamy could explain the lack of a coordinated campaign to decriminalise the practice.
Another possible explanation is Islamophobia. Recent news reports of polygamists claiming Centrelink payments preceded a wave of abuse directed at the Muslim community. It was the abusive phone calls and threats of physical violence made to my unnamed source, his family, and the Muslim community more broadly that convinced him to avoid putting his name to pro-polygamy views in the future.
Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter nicoheath. Signout Sign in Create an account. Polygamy usually refers to a man taking multiple wives. Previous Next Show Grid. Previous Next Hide Grid. Polygamy is taboo in Western society and Christianity but other cultures and faiths permit plural marriage. By Nicola Heath. Polygamy is legal in 58 out of countries around the world.
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Adult Child Teen. Polygamy is legal. 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. According to scientific studies, the human mating system is considered to be moderately polygynous, based both on surveys of world populations,   and on characteristics of human reproductive physiology. This article is missing information about polygamy in history.
More than one wife society. The Meaning of "The Husband of One Wife" in 1 Timothy 3
Main article: Polyandry in nature. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Polygamy: a cross-cultural analysis. A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry. The Atlantic. Retrieved 31 July Gender Roles in traditional Tibetan cultures. Adler Ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. The Dynamics of polyandry: kinship, domesticity, and population on the Tibetan border.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Current Anthropology. The Sunday Tribune. Natural History. Natural History Magazine. Nebraska Anthropologist. Al Jazeera. Retrieved 29 October While prospects for conflict are unclear, other problems including human trafficking, prostitution and polyandry—men usually relatives sharing a wife—are certain to get worse.
The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved October 14, Camerapix Publishers International. Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. October University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Dawson ed. Hollis: The Masai. Bottero, E. Vercoutter eds. New York, New York: Allerton Books Co. Retrieved 6 April Archived from the original on Retrieved CS1 maint: archived copy as title link Where the Gods are Mountains.
China University of Political Science and Law. San Francisco: A. Retrieved 28 April Archived from the original on 5 October Asian and African Systems of Polyandry. London: John Murray, Chapter IV, Note B. Davies : The Saturnalia. New York: Columbia University Press, , p. Retrieved 28 Dec Jacobs: Untrodden Fields of Anthropology. New York: Falstaff Press, Paul Hamlyn, London, , p. The History of Mankind. London: MacMillan, London: Walter Scott Press, New York: Criterion Books, , p.
The position of women in Hindu civilization, from prehistoric times to the present day. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. Eerdmans, , p. Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics. Eerdmans Publishing. Van Wagoner Mormon Polygamy: A History Second ed. Signature Books. Van Wagoner Fall Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family.
Fordham Law Review. Muslim women can only marry one man; no polyandry is allowed. Mukarram Encyclopaedia of Islam. Anmol Publications PVT. July 24, , Livescience. Compersion New relationship energy Primary and secondary Terminology within polyamory Values within polyamory.
Types of marriages. Adult Child Teen. Lavender Sham Green card Marriage allowance Predatory. Beena Boston Female husband Walking. Mariage blanc. Categories : Marriage Mating systems Polyandry. Hidden categories: Wikipedia articles needing page number citations from August CS1 Chinese-language sources zh Webarchive template wayback links CS1 maint: archived copy as title CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown Articles containing Ancient Greek-language text Wikipedia articles needing clarification from November All accuracy disputes Articles with disputed statements from September All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from September Articles needing additional references from September All articles needing additional references Articles needing more viewpoints from September Wikipedia articles incorporating a citation from the Encyclopaedia Britannica with Wikisource reference.
Professor Ifediora also believes that polygyny is a "hindrance to social and economic development" in the continent of Africa due to women's lack of financial control. Polygyny occurred even in areas of where monogamy was prevalent. Wealth played a key role in the development of family life during these times. Wealth meant the more powerful men had a principal wife and several secondary wives, known as resource polygyny.
Local rulers of villages usually had the most wives as a sign of power and status. Conquerors of villages would often marry the daughters of the former leaders as a symbol of conquest. The practice of resource polygyny continued with the spread and expansion of Islam in Africa and Southeast Asia. Children born into these households were considered free.
Children born to free or slave concubines were free, but had lesser status than those born to wives. Living arrangements varied between areas. In Africa, each wife usually had their own house, as well as property and animals. The idea that all property was owned by the husband originated in Europe and was not recognized in Africa. In many other parts of the world, wives lived together in seclusion, under one household. A harem also known as a forbidden area was a special part of the house for the wives.
Polygynous marriage was preferred among the Logoli and other Abalulya sub ethnic groups. Taking additional wives was regarded as one of the fundamental indicators of a successfully established man. Large families enhanced the prestige of Logoli men. Logoli men with large families were also capable of obtaining justice, as they would be feared by people, who would not dare to use force to take their livestock or other goods from them. Interviews with some of the contemporary Logoli men and women who recently made polygynous marriages yielded data which suggest that marrying another wife is usually approached with considerable thought and deliberation by the man.
It may or may not involve or require the consent of the other wives and prospective wife's parents. A type of " surrogate pregnancy " arrangement was reported to have been observed, in which some wives who are unable to bear children, find fulfillment in the children and family provided by a husband taking additional wives. Some of the young polygynous men indicated that they were trapped in polygyny because of the large number of single women who needed and were willing to take them as husbands although they were already married.
Most of those second and third wives were older women who had not yet married. Customary law, one of the three legal systems in operation in Nigeria the other two being Nigerian common law and Sharia law allows for the legal marriage of more than one woman by a single man. Unlike those marriages recognised by Sharia, there is no limit to the number of legal wives allowed under customary law. Currently polygyny is most common within royal and noble families within the country, and is largely practiced by the tribes native to its north and west.
Although far less popular there, it is nonetheless also legal in Nigeria's east and south. Many majority- Muslim countries retain the traditional sharia , which interprets teachings of the Quran to permit polygamy with up to four wives. Turkey and Tunisia are countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations that enforce secularist practices by law. In the 21st century, a revival of the practice of polygamy in the Muslim World has contributed to efforts to re-establish its legality and legitimacy in some countries and communities where it is illegal.
Proposals have been made to re-legalize polygamy in other ex-Soviet Muslim republics, such as Kazakhstan , Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Both terms indicate the orthodox nature and hierarchy. The child of the concubine addressed the big mother as "aunt". This word was also used in both Korea and Japan. Polygamy in India is, in general, prohibited and the vast majority of marriages are legally monogamous.
Polygyny among Christians was banned in the late 19th century, while The Hindu Marriage Act, banned polygyny for Hindus. Currently, polygyny is only allowed among Muslims; but it is strongly discouraged by public policy.
Prevalence of polygyny in India is very low: among married women, only 1. In mainland China, polygamy is illegal under Marriage Law passed in This replaced a similar prohibition.
Polygyny where wives are of equal status had always been illegal in China, and had been considered a crime in some dynasties. In family laws from Tang to Qing Dynasties, the status of a wife, concubines and maid-mistresses couldn't be altered. Rich officials and merchants of the elite also took concubines in addition to legal wives.
The first wife was the head or mother wife; other wives were under her headship if the husband was away. Concubines had a lower status than full wives, generally not being seen in public with their husband and not having rights to decisions in the house. However they were considered legitimate, therefore had many more rights to inheritance of status and wealth than illegitimate children conceived outside a marriage.
Polygamy was de facto widely practiced in the Republic of China from to , before Kuomintang was defeated in the Civil War and retreated to Taiwan. Zhang Zongchang , a well-known warlord, notably declared he had three 'unknowns' - unknown number of rifles, unknown amount of money, and unknown number of concubines. Period drama and historical novels frequently refer to the former culture of polygamy usually polygyny.
An example is the Wuxia novel The Deer and the Cauldron by Hong Kong writer Louis Cha , in which the protagonist Wei Xiaobao has seven wives In new edition of the novel, Princess Jianning was assigned as the wife, while others are concubines. A proposal to decriminalize polygamy was heard by the Kyrgyz parliament. It was supported by the Justice Minister, the country's ombudsman, and the Muslim Women's organization Mutakalim , which had gathered 40, signatures in favour of polygamy.
But, on March 26, , parliament rejected the bill. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is known to oppose legalizing polygyny. Due to an increase in the number of polygamous marriages, proposals were made in Tajikistan to re-legalize polygamy. Mukhiddin Kabiri, the Deputy Chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan , says that legislation is unlikely to stop the growth in polygyny.
The Muslim communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina traditionally practiced polygamy but the practice was last observed in Cazinska Krajina in the early s. This trend appears linked with the advent of fundamentalist Wahhabism in the Balkans. They have suggested creating an entire Islamic jurisdiction including polygamy, but these proposals have been rejected by Serbia.
Factual polygamy and sexual relationships with several adult partners are not punishable in accordance with current revisions of Criminal Code of Russia and Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses. But multiple marriage can't be registered and officially recognised by Russian authorities because Family Code of Russia section 14 and others prohibits registration of marriage if one of person is in another registered marriage in Russia or another country.
Polygamy is tolerated in predominantly Muslim republics such as Chechnya , Ingushetia , and Dagestan. Polygyny was legalized and documented in unrecognised Chechen Republic of Ichkeria but Russian authorities had annulled these polygynous marriages after they regained control over territory of Ichkeria.
Later Ramzan Kadyrov , President of the Chechen Republic , has been quoted on radio as saying that the depopulation of Chechnya by war justifies legalizing polygamy.
In Ingushetia in July, polygyny was officially recognised and allowed by edict of president of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev and registration of polygyny marriages had been started. But this edict had been formally suspended soon by edict of President of Russia Boris Yeltsin. One year later this edict of Aushev had been cancelled by the Supreme Court of Ingushetia because of contradiction with Family Code of Russia.
Although non-Muslim Russian populations have historically practiced monogamy, Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky offered to legalize polygyny to encourage population growth and correct the demographic crisis of Russians.
Zhirinovsky first proposed to legalize polygyny in , after Kadyrov's declaration that he would introduce an amendment to legalize polygyny for all Russian citizens. In the U. K, there are believed to be up to 20, polygamous marriages in Britain's Muslim's community,  even though bigamy is an offence. Mormon fundamentalism believes in the validity of selected fundamental aspects of Mormonism as taught and practiced in the nineteenth century.
Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints' teachings include plural marriage , a form of polygyny first taught by Joseph Smith , the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. In the 21st century, several sources have claimed as many as 60, fundamentalist Latter-day Saints in the United States,   with fewer than half of them living in polygamous households.
The Hindu scriptures acknowledge numerous occasions of polygyny; it was the norm among kings, the nobility and the extremely wealthy. Pandu , the father of the Pandavas in Mahabharata , had two wives Kunti and Madri.
Many other personalities including Rama had only one wife, and while this was regarded as morally exemplary, polygyny remained customary and acceptable among Hindus. Polygyny is not forbidden in the Old Testament and over 40 important figures had more than one wife, such as Esau [Genesis ] [—9] , Elkanah [1 Samuel —8] , and Solomon [1 Kings —3]. Moses had three wives; Zipporah [Exodus 2: 21] , the daughter of Hobab [Numbers ] and the "Cushite" woman.
However, Deuteronomy does state that the king shall not have too many wives. According to Michael Coogan, "[p]olygyny continued to be practiced well into the biblical period, and it is attested among Jews as late as the second century CE. Some Mizrahi Mideast Jewish communities particularly Yemenite Jews and Persian Jews discontinued polygyny more recently, after they immigrated to countries where it was forbidden or illegal.
Israel prohibits polygamy by law. But Mizrahi Jews are not permitted to enter into new polygamous marriages in Israel. However polygamy may still occur in non-European Jewish communities that exist in countries where it is not forbidden, such as Jewish communities in Yemen and the Arab world. Karaite Jews , who do not adhere to Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah, do not practice polygyny.
Karaites interpret Leviticus to mean that a man can only take a second wife if his first wife gives her consent  and Exodus to mean that a man can only take a second wife if he is capable of maintaining the same level of marital duties due to his first wife: namely, food, clothing, and sexual gratification.
Polygamy is not forbidden in the Old Testament. The New Testament is largely silent on polygamy, however, some point to Jesus's repetition of the earlier scriptures, noting that a man and a wife "shall become one flesh".
For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh. Most Christian theologians argue that in Matthew and referring to Genesis Jesus explicitly states a man should have only one wife:. Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Jesus also tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins going to meet the bridegroom, without making any explicit criticism or other comment on the practice of polygamy. The Bible states in the New Testament that polygamy should not be practiced by certain church leaders. Similar counsel is repeated in the first chapter of the Epistle to Titus. Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone sola scriptura have at least temporarily accepted polygyny as a Biblical practice.
For example, during the Protestant Reformation , in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" or "The Confessional Advice" ,  Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse , who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication",  a dispensation to take a second wife.
The double marriage was to be done in secret, however, to avoid public scandal. Priests and ministers not bound by any monastery were allowed to marry. Lastly, the decree stated that every man was allowed to marry up to ten women. The men were admonished to behave honorably, provide for their wives properly, and prevent animosity among them. In Sub-Saharan Africa , there has often been a tension between the Christian insistence on monogamy and the traditional practice of polygamy.
In some instances in recent times there have been moves for accommodation; in other instances, churches have resisted such moves strongly. African Independent Churches have sometimes referred to those parts of the Old Testament that describe polygamy in defending the practice. Under Islamic marital jurisprudence , Muslim men are allowed to practice polygyny, that is, they can have more than one wife at the same time, up to a total of four.
Polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, is not permitted. Based on verse of Quran the ideal relationship is the comfort that a couple find in each other's embrace:. And one of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may find comfort in them.
And He has placed between you compassion and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect. The polygyny that is allowed in the Quran is for special situations; however, it advises monogamy if a man fears he can't deal justly with them. This is based on verse of Quran which says:. This way you are less likely to commit injustice. There are strict requirements to marrying more than one woman, as the man must treat them equally financially and in terms of support given to each wife, according to Islamic law.
Muslim women aren't allowed to marry more than one husband at once. However, in the case of a divorce or their husbands' death they can remarry after the completion of Iddah , as divorce is legal in Islamic law. A non-Muslim woman who flees from her non-Muslim husband and accepts Islam can remarry without divorce from her previous husband, as her marriage with non-Muslim husband is Islamically dissolved on her fleeing.
A non-Muslim woman captured during war by Muslims, can also remarry, as her marriage with her non-Muslim husband is Islamically dissolved at capture by Muslim soldiers. This permission is given to such women in verse of Quran. The verse also emphasizes on transparency, mutual agreement and financial compensation as prerequisites for matrimonial relationship as opposed to prostitution; it says:.
This is God's commandment to you. Lawful to you are all beyond these—as long as you seek them with your wealth in a legal marriage, not in fornication. Give those you have consummated marriage with their due dowries.
It is permissible to be mutually gracious regarding the set dowry. Muhammad was monogamously married to Khadija , his first wife, for 25 years, until she died.
After her death, he married multiple women, mostly widows,  for social and political reasons. The Qur'an does not give preference in marrying more than one wife. One reason cited for polygyny is that it allows a man to give financial protection to multiple women, who might otherwise not have any support e. In such a case, the husband cannot marry another woman as long as he is married to his wife.
Usually the wives have little to no contact with each other and lead separate, individual lives in their own houses, and sometimes in different cities, though they all share the same husband. In most Muslim-majority countries, polygyny is legal with Kuwait being the only one where no restrictions are imposed on it. Countries that allow polygyny typically also require a man to obtain permission from his previous wives before marrying another, and require the man to prove that he can financially support multiple wives.
In Malaysia and Morocco , a man must justify taking an additional wife at a court hearing before he is allowed to do so. In zoology the term polygyny is used for to a pattern of mating in which a male animal has more than one female mate in a breeding season. This is known as resource defense polygyny and males of the bee species Anthidium manicatum also known as the European wool carder bee exhibit this behavior. Males claim patches of floral plants, ward off conspecific males and other resource competitors, and mate with the multiple females who forage in their territories.
In polygyny relationships in animals, the female is the one who provides most of the parental care for the offspring. Polygyny in eusocial insects means that some insects living in colonies have not only one queen, but several queens. There is primary polygyny several queens join to found a new colony, but after the hatching of the first workers the queens fight each other until only one queen survives and the colony becomes monogynous and secondary polygyny a well-established colony continues to have several queens.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about polygynous marriage practices. For polygynous animal mating, see polygyny in animals. Polygamy is only legal for Muslims. Polygamy is legal. Polygamy is legal in some regions of Indonesia.
Polygamy is illegal, but the practice is not criminalized. Polygamy is illegal and the practice is criminalized. Legal status unknown. In Nigeria and South Africa , polygamous marriages based on customary law are legally recognized for Muslims. In Mauritius , polygamous unions have no legal recognition. Polygamy Polyandry Polygyny. Cicisbeo Concubinage Courtesan Mistress. Breakup Separation Annulment Divorce Widowhood. Emotions and feelings. Basic concepts.
Case studies. Chambri Mosuo.
Polygamy in India - Wikipedia
For generations, anthropologists have told their students a fairly simple story about polyandry—the socially recognized mating of one woman to two or more males. The story has gone like this:. While we can find a cluster of roughly two dozen societies on the Tibetan plateau in which polyandry exists as a recognized form of mating, those societies count as anomalous within humankind.
And because polyandry doesn't exist in most of the world, if you could jump into a time machine and head back thousands of years, you probably wouldn't find polyandry in our evolutionary history. That's not the case, though, according to a recent paper in Human Nature co-authored by two anthropologists, Katherine Starkweather , a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri, and Raymond Hames , professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska. While earning her masters under Hames' supervision, Starkweather undertook a careful survey of the literature, and found anthropological accounts of 53 societies outside of the "classic polyandrous" Tibetan region that recognize and allow polyandrous unions.
Disclosure: I first learned of Starkweather's project while researching a controversy involving Hames and he is now a friend. Indeed, according to Starkweather and Hames, anthropologists have documented social systems for polyandrous unions "among foragers in a wide variety of environments ranging from the Arctic to the tropics, and to the desert.
Rather than treating polyandry as a mystery to be explained away, Starkweather and Hames suggest polyandry constitutes a variation on the common, evolutionarily-adaptive phenomenon of pair-bonding—a variation that sometimes emerges in response to environmental conditions.
What kind of environmental conditions? Well, "classical polyandry" in Asia has allowed families in areas of scarce farmable land to hold agricultural estates together. The marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows plots of family-owned land to remain intact and undivided. In other cultures, it appears that a man may arrange a second husband again, frequently his brother for his wife because he knows that, when he must be absent, the second husband will protect his wife—and thus his interests.
And if she gets impregnated while Husband 1 is gone, it will be by someone of whom he has approved in advance. Anthropologists have recorded this kind of situation among certain cultures among the Inuit the people formerly called Eskimos. Then there's the "father effect" demonstrated by Penn State's Stephen Beckerman and his colleagues in their study of the Bari people of Venezuela.
The Bari have a system for recognizing two living men as both being fathers of a single child. Becerkman's group found that children understood to have two fathers are significantly more likely to survive to age 15 than children with only one—hence the term "father effect. Two fathers? As odd as it can sound to those of us who know of human development as the one-egg-meets-one-sperm story, some cultures maintain the idea that fetuses develop in the womb as the result of multiple contributions of semen over the course of a pregnancy.
In cultural systems of what Beckerman has named "partible paternity," two men can be socially recognized as legitimate fathers of a single child. Starkweather and Hames call this a form of "informal polyandry," because while the two fathers may not be both formally married to and living with the mother in all cases, the society around them officially recognizes both men as legitimate mates to the mother, and father to her child.
What all these polyandrous situations—classical and non-classical, formal and informal—have in common is that they are all socially recognized systems in which women may openly have multiple mates simultaneously. Women in such systems are not "cheating" by any stretch of the imagination, nor are the men being cuckolded. The systems are socially sanctioned. But this does not mean that the women are in control of the arrangements; in many of the cultures Starkweather and Hames reviewed, the first husband functions as the decider when it comes to resource distribution and acceptance of additional male mates.
So how is it that, in spite of all this evidence of polyandry accumulating steadily in the literature, anthropologists for so long passed along the "it's virtually non-existent" story? Starkweather and Hames suggest anthropology has been accidentally playing a scholarly version of the Telephone Game.
In , George Murdock defined polyandry in a seminal text as "unions of one woman with two or more husbands where these [types of union] are culturally favored and involve residential as well as sexual cohabitation. Then subsequent scholars mis-repeated Murdock's remark; polyandry went from being understood as "rarely culturally favored " to "rarely permitted.
If you write off every exception to a supposed rule, you will never think to challenge the rule. In an email interview with me, Starkweather remarked, "I don't think that anyone, including Murdock, was operating from an explicitly sexist standpoint.
However, I do think that the definitions of polyandry, and thus perceptions about its rarity, may have been due at least in part to the fact that an overwhelming percentage of anthropologists collecting data and shaping theory at the time were men. That explanation -- that Western male anthropologists had a hard time "believing" in polyandry—makes sense. Humans appear prone, on average, to sexual jealousy, and so it would not be unreasonable for many of us—men and women alike—to project an assumption that sexual jealousy would make poly-unions untenable.
Indeed, anthropologists have found that in both polyandry one woman, multiple husbands and polygyny one husband, multiple wives , sexual jealousy often functions as a stressor in families around the world. Yet certain environmental circumstances do seem to increase the odds of a culture accepting some form of polyandry.
In particular, Starkweather and Hames find that polyandry is often found in societies with highly skewed "operational sex ratios. Indeed, fully three-quarters of the 53 societies identified by Starkweather and Hames involve skewed sex ratios, with more adult males than females. This led me to wonder, in our exchange, whether in places where sex ratios are becoming highly skewed—in places like India and China—is polyandry likely to emerge?
Starkweather and Hames guess not. First, most of the cultures in which polyandry is found look very different from modern India and China; polyandry shows up mostly in relatively egalitarian societies i. Modern India and China don't look anything like simple egalitarian societies. So what will happen there?
Hames points out that, "Landowning societies all over the world have faced an excess of men at one point or another and have dealt with this by sending these men to the priesthood, to fight in wars, or to explore or make a name for themselves" elsewhere. He concludes, "It is clear that these countries will have to do something with all of the excess men, but polyandry will probably not occur as a widespread solution.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Alice Dreger is a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.