To view polygamy as source of strife is in­ac­cu­rate

Chil­dren raised in this set-up know true value of a fam­ily

Sunday World - - Viewpoint - Sinethemba Cele

Prac­tised mainly in Africa in its proper re­spect­ful fam­ily value-based form, then marred and per­verted by the ar­rival of the colonis­ers, polygamy is now rep­re­sented as a form of slav­ery for women.

Our his­tory hasn’t been prop­erly rep­re­sented as it was not told by our own and from our own ac­count.

Polygamy is more about fam­ily and the wealth that comes with be­ing part of that fam­ily. As a peo­ple, we have never been an “I” so­ci­ety but an “us”, and never been about the self. You must view ev­ery­thing from this premise. We would share or more like we have al­ways shared and this is what polygamy rep­re­sents.

Shar­ing in this re­gard means hav­ing more moth­ers to love and nur­ture, and more hands to share the work­load.

Ev­ery­thing is shared; the pain, the joy, the tears, the rain, the land and ev­ery­thing else.

You have peo­ple around you to guide and care, give di­rec­tions and wis­dom – noth­ing goes un­no­ticed through­out the com­pound and this takes care of the many so­ci­etal ail­ments we have to­day.

Imag­ine the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing three moth­ers and four sis­ters to no­tice you haven’t been your­self; those close to you will no­tice when you lose your smile.

There are many sides to this type of set-up. There are many vari­ants and va­ri­eties, the prac­tise is con­ducted dif­fer­ently through­out the con­ti­nent – from one tribe to an­other and one clan to an­other clan.

To de­scribe polygamy as a cause of strife is a bit far­fetched and un­fair; polygamy is a choice.

The as­ser­tion and sub­se­quent ac­cep­tance of colo­nial­ism, reli­gion and in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, which shaped ur­ban­i­sa­tion and mi­gra­tion of labour, led to the de­struc­tion of the African fam­ily.

All this has led to a dys­func­tional African na­tion that has lost touch with the most ba­sic con­cept, fam­ily.

The fam­ily unit in a polyg­a­mous set-up em­pha­sises that there be no dis­tinc­tion be­tween the bi­o­log­i­cal and non­bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily mem­bers. Each mother is re­garded in the same level and their obli­ga­tion is the same to all the chil­dren.

This means that all should be treated in equal mea­sure. This is very vi­tal to en­sure the con­tin­ued co­he­sion within the home.

Polygamy, like all that hu­mans par­take in, may be flawed for some peo­ple and com­pletely dif­fer­ent for other peo­ple. We can­not how­ever, ig­nore the fact that the ta­pes­try and very fab­ric that makes us hu­man is fam­ily.

So, it is not for us to ques­tion polygamy but to ac­cept that it has the ben­e­fit of giv­ing a lov­ing fam­ily to chil­dren and a dig­ni­fied and pro­gres­sive life for those who choose to be in a polyg­a­mous set-up.

For me, polygamy is beau­ti­ful and unique, but there are also neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions for the women folk in this set-up.

As Africans, we are in­clined to be­lieve tra­di­tional ver­sions of witch­craft which to some are said to play a role in the way polygamy ex­ists – with ref­er­ence to how the men may be­witch the women (in­volved in the prac­tise), and the women do­ing things to harm each other or the chil­dren of other wives.

These are some of the tales that may be as­so­ci­ated with polygamy but, un­for­tu­nately, the lit­er­a­ture and the study of the prac­tise is in many ways out­dated and, at best, has up to this point been neg­li­gent of the re­al­ity lived by those in­volved in the prac­tise.

Polygamy is, in many ways, rep­re­sent­ing a tight-knit fam­ily struc­ture

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