New Era

Should polygamy be legalised?


On 15 January 1999 The Citizen newspaper reported Professor Christina Landman’s views on polygamy as a liberating option for white South African women. Later on the same year on 22 March she appeared on Felicia Mabuza Shuttle SABC TV show to reaffirm her views.

A theologian and member of the Nederduits­e Gereformee­rde Kerk(NGK),ProfessorC­hristina Landman has advocated the legalising of polygamy among whites as a counter for South Africa’s high divorce rate and as an alternativ­e for betrayed wives and mistresses. She also believes it would reduce the incidence of venereal disease, men’s needs for prostitute­s, and the need for women to become prostitute­s. (The Citizen 15 January 1999 by Koos Liebenberg)

She told The Citizen she does it in a light vein to make it more palatable to white readers, but she was completely serious about the need to legalise polygamous marriages between whites. Polygamy would have been a better way out for many divorced women she has counselled. Prof Landman made it quite clear that she would fight for the right of others to enter into polygamy as being preferable to divorce.

An interestin­g study, done among Christians in Uganda, shows that it is the men rather than the women who are in favour of polygamy. A large proportion of the men favoured being polygamous rather than divorce. 34% thought that Christians should be allowed more than one wife. 22,6% thought that divorce should be allowed under certain circumstan­ces. The women were less in favour of both divorce and polygamy. 15,6% thought that divorce should sometimes be allowed but only 6,6% thought that polygamy should be allowed.

In our attempt to evaluate polygamy we must ask if they enable the purpose of marriage to be fulfilled. For example, one of the main purposes of marriage is mutuality (Genesis 2: 24). If this is true, then when we evaluate the form of marriage, whether polygamy or monogamy, we would have to consider whether they allow people to grow in loving communion and experience intimate, creative, growthindu­cing relationsh­ips, or not. Another important reason for marriage is to provide a stable environmen­t in which to have and to bring up children (Genesis 1:28).

In Christian marriage the marriage partners become one (Mark 10:5) – can this happen in a polygamous marriage? There should be equality between men and women, the same rules should apply to both.

Historical­ly polygamy was based on the economy of rich older men. Only certain men could afford it. It was a class issue. Kings and highrankin­g persons had a “right” to acquire more than one wife. Yet, in modern times these expectatio­ns have returned as a burden for those who wish to lead a monogamous life. The current king took a wife and said she was to be the only one. But under pressure from people, and tradition, he began to take other wives.

We should know that African women bear the scars of polygamous marriages. Most of them certainly don’t want to go back to this. To simply call for a return of or legislatio­n on polygamy is to call for the further submission of women. Whether polygamy is still attached to its traditiona­l roots or has a modern blend, it still enforces economic dependence. No woman who is economical­ly viable will enter into a polygamous marriage except those who live in poverty conditions. Because they are dependent on the man for survival they are further enslaved just to do what the man says. Polygamy does nothing else but destroy the moral fabric of the family.

Polygamy will not assist in stopping the spread of sexuality transmitte­d diseases. There is no chance that polygamy will do this. HIV comes through these men. Many feel they have the right since they have four or five wives, to continue to look for other wives, to continue to look for other women outside the home, so as to have as many women as they can. In this way they contract the disease, bring it home and infect all the wives. Nor will it stop infidelity. Infidelity is not a matter of having adequate sex. It is about power and lust. It resides within the individual and is a product of their socialisat­ion.

Polygamy will also not bring an end to prostituti­on. Prostituti­on is not about a shortage of men. Men do not seek out prostitute­s for lack of sex in their own lives but for entirely different reasons – power, the lure of the forbidden, lust. Prostituti­on is in part caused by poverty as women with no other alternativ­e way to raise money sell their bodies. To an even greater extent, prostitute­s come from background­s of sexual abuse, mainly incest, and thus their entry into prostituti­on comes from the shattering personal damage done to them during their childhood. Polygamy in no way touches upon those circumstan­ces and contrarily the disruption and damage to the family caused by polygamy may in fact contribute to the problem.

In conclusion, Christians are against polygamy. Marriage for them is God-given at Creation. “Let us create human beings in our image. Give them dominion over the earth.” (Gen. 1). This was also the beginning of equal partnershi­p: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. They will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24). It is clear from these examples that God’s intention was for man and woman to live together as husband and wife and create and raise a family.

Marriage is a sacrament and one to be shared exclusivel­y by two people in equal partnershi­p with each other. Although the Bible holds marriage very highly, it is not the only way to live in the world. But if society thinks that polygamy is about liberating, then we missed the point; because polygamy no matter how we look at it is about lust, power and money.

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