There’s no proof that polygamy doesn’t work
THE ARGUMENTS against polygamy (Paul Vallely, “I do, I do, I do…”, January 9) may appear to be reasonable – but on deeper analysis are both misleading and prejudiced.
“It’s completely at odds with the ideal of gender equality,” is only true when applied to polygyny, which, as the article correctly indicates is the type more commonly practised; and is the type entrenched in South African customary law. It should be noted that this also runs counter to the ideal of racial equality.
As a white South African I would find it difficult to marry under customary law and enjoy this type of polygamy (although I am not sure that I would enjoy polygamy of any sort – one wife was too much for me). South Africa’s marvellous constitution already allows for same-sex marriage. Perhaps, in time, and with enough activism, relationships of all types will be allowed in law.
The second argument, “it sends out the wrong message about the transmission of HIV/Aids,” is completely incorrect. I appreciate that our philandering President Jacob Zuma is a poor example, who has indeed sent out the wrong message regarding HIV/Aids. However, Vallely conflates polygamy with promiscuity, and offers no evidence or further discussion as to why he does so. There is no reason to believe that a serious polygamous relationship, where every member knows their status, would be any more likely to spread HIV than a serially monogamous one.
I am really not sure what to make of this: “you could argue that a woman having more than one husband is a good strategy for checking the world’s population growth”. Is this an argument against polygamy, or against polygyny? To me this is really an argument for polyandry.
Right now, the strongest arguments against polygamous relationships are those that deal with the rights of the various spouses and children – which can become complex to manage and police. There is little evidence to suggest however, that there is more abuse in polygamous relationships than monogamous ones. However, I believe that with enough applied thought, the legal rights of all parties in a polygamous relationship can be properly protected.
As a country we have already moved beyond the notion of a marriage being between one man and one woman sealed under the eyes of God – perhaps it is time to extend that to support family groups and relationships of all types. WHERE are the smiles? The first time I visited Cape Town was in 1998, and I saw smiles everywhere. The city exuded friendliness. On each of my 11 return trips I have found fewer and fewer smiles. What’s happening? Is it the economy? There is a shift in the public “mood” of this beautiful city.