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Cost And Pain Of Polygamy And its Implications On Mothers And Children

By Olorunwa Folakemi Abiodun


Polygamy is the practice of a man having numerous wives. Eighty five percent of communities approve polygamy globally. Prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa is 11 percent, Burkina Faso 36 percent,  Mali 34 percent, Nigeria 28 percent  (Kramer, 2020).

Muslims in Africa are more likely than Christians to practice and live in polygamy. Polygamy is historically being influenced by cultures & customs. Globally, 70% of societies particularly in Africa practiced polygamy.

Causes of polygamy are attributed to a woman’s inability to bear children, postpartum abstinence, attitudes of people about single women, lack of employment and financial support, giving birth to only female children and legalization of polygamy in some African societies.

Wife’s rights were not granted equally and proportionately. Polygamy amounts to a violation of women’s rights. Perpetrators tap into socio economic factors that continue to feed into polygamy. There is no informed consent of both parties especially females under 18 years. Polygamy breaches Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Polygamy is a difficult and bitter pill to swallow especially for women. Subsequently, men’s neglect can exacerbate the suffering of women and children. Early booking of women and child marriages result are often noticed in polygamy. Mothers are more likely to experience mental health issues. First wife live a harsh life and they battle with a variety of psychological issues. Co-wife conflict can also result in outbursts of verbal or physical violence in such homes. (Essien, 2018).

“Opo-sisu” also causes polygamy. It applies to women who have lost their husband and are made to marry their brothers in-law. Mothers became new husband’s sex partner without care. Women are forcefully incorporated into the opo system in rural areas which causes lack of equality and human dignity. Male child would be named after the deceased’s name. If he does not have a child before and a child is raised through the coupling of the widow and the brother in-law. There is also maltreatment of widow and sexual assault. My mother died as a result of levirate.

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Polygamous households, sometimes neglect their children gravely. Lower expectations is placed on the children high degree of illiteracy and street hawking are also noticed in polygamous households. It has worse family functioning and more marital pain. Children are affected by their mother’s sadness.

Polygamy allows the presence of several partners. Men who practice polygamy have a status symbol. Men involved in polygamy are not getting bored and they build stronger social network results from having more connections. Proportion of children without parents’ declines with polygamy. However, it helps men to develop their leadership abilities and inspiration. Remember Biblical and Quran figures like King David and Abraham, Mohammed.

They were praised rather than cursed for their polygamous tendencies. However, their children are likely to have low scholastic aspirations and poor health. This is one of the reasons why Polygamy is linked to poverty in African nations like Nigeria and Ghana.

Although polygamy limit man’s sexual exploration outside of marriage and reduce adultery in society, many people believe that it results in increased violence, fraud, prostitution, adultery, rape and abduction, much to the harm of society.

Families should be well educated about the risks of polygamy. Healthcare experts in countries where polygamy abounds must do a better examination to improve the quality of life for women and children. Future research on polygamy should include a greater emphasis on children born in such homes across a wider cross-section of cultures.

Polygamy should be practiced by affluent groups who have the means to provide for their families in order to curb poverty levels. Men in polygamy must be able to treat their women fairly according to their skills. In order to protect the rights of women and children, women should be empowered economically, socially, politically and their consciousness must be raised to reject polygamy.

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To adequately educate women, there should be a framework for genuine follow-up (Mengistu et al., 2021). In order to offset the potential negative impact of polygamy on women and children, it can be helpful to identify this impact in order to provide a clear understanding and serve as the basis for developing appropriate initiatives that address primary prevention.  (Bahari et al., 2021).

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