There’s a small island in the Indian Ocean called Mayotte that has just voted to become part of France like Martinique and Guadaloupe. Until now, its status has been a French “oversees community.” The problem is that most of the residents of Mayotte are Muslims and practice polygamy.
Polygamy is illegal in France and so the Mayottes have been told they have to stop having more than one spouse.
Although condoned by both the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Koran, polygamy is illegal in most of the world, including all western countries and some Islamic countries. Only some Muslim states, like Saudi Arabia, and some African societies still allow it.
Why is polygamy a crime?
If someone wants more than one spouse and all the people involved are legally adults and happy with the arrangement, what’s the problem?
The anti-polygamists always drag out the “preservation of the sanctity of marriage” argument (where have we heard that one before?). People fear that the children of polygamous families will grow up confused about family life. They wonder what will happen if there’s a divorce. Will kids be taken away from their half-siblings as well as their other parent(s)?
I think polygamy makes a lot more sense than our traditional idea of marriage. The fantastical, romantic married couple as soul mates, two becoming one, cleaving unto each other and only each other until death is unrealistic. Divorce statistics bear that out. Loving only one person for life doesn’t happen much anymore. It’s an ideal — a product of our particular time, place and culture.
Polygamy had been the norm in many societies throughout the world from the beginning of time to quite recently. Most of the animal kingdom is polygamous. It’s the natural order of things.
It until 1862 that polygamy was made illegal in the US.
Polygamy is not about the stereotypical sheik with harem of women at his disposal for fornication purposes. It’s a commitment made between three or more individuals to work together and love each other as partners and raise a family.
The polygamous family has far fewer pressures to deal with. Kids are raised under a wider influence of adults and siblings. Kids have more role models; more creative, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical resources.
There is a greater support system. There are more providers, both in a financial and emotional sense in a polygamous family. One or even two people losing their jobs doesn’t have to spell disaster for the family. Two people not being able to agree on disciplining a child or other domestic issues isn’t the huge problem it often is in two-parent families.
There’s so much divorce; so much unhappiness in marriages today. And there are many more people living lies; trapped in frustrating, loveless marriages, and/or carrying on extra-marital affairs. Wanting to leave, but not able to. If they had an alternate spouses, or even co-spouses, they’d have others to share their lives, their problems, their joys.
Marriage carries huge expectations. People expect their spouses to be good lovers, partners, help-mates, emotional supports, parents, providers, intellectual equals, confidants, companions, friends, etc., etc. That’s a lot to put on one person.
I won’t pretend that everyone would be happy in a polygamous family. Some people are perfectly happy and content with their current situation. That’s great. But why are the alternative options illegal?
If, for some reason I was no longer allowed to be single, I would much rather live in a polygamous marriage than a one-on-one marriage. The polygynous kind, though, where I was one of several wives; not the polyandrous kind. (I’m not surprised that one never really took off).
I know, that was terribly sexist and hurtful. I’m sorry.
Really, the best combination would be a few husbands and a few wives. One big happy family.