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1.having more than one spouse at a time
1.(MeSH)The social institution involving legal and/or religious sanction whereby men and women are joined together for the purpose of founding a family unit.
PolygamyPo*lyg"a*my (?), n. [Gr. �; cf. F. polygamie.]
1. The having of a plurality of wives or husbands at the same time; usually, the marriage of a man to more than one woman, or the practice of having several wives, at the same time; -- opposed to monogamy; as, the nations of the East practiced polygamy. See the Note under Bigamy, and cf. Polyandry.
2. (Zoöl.) The state or habit of having more than one mate.
3. (Bot.) The condition or state of a plant which bears both perfect and unisexual flowers.
Arranged Marriage (MeSH), Commonlaw Marriage (MeSH), Consensual Union (MeSH), Consummation of Marriage (MeSH), Currently Married (MeSH), Dowry (MeSH), Ever Married (MeSH), Husband-Wife Comparisons (MeSH), Intermarriage (MeSH), Marital Relationship (MeSH), Marriage (MeSH), Marriage Age (MeSH), Marriage Duration (MeSH), Marriage Patterns (MeSH), Marriage Postponement (MeSH), Mate Selection (MeSH), Multiple Marriages (MeSH), Nuptiality (MeSH), Polygyny (MeSH), Remarriage (MeSH)
Current state of polygamy in the Latter Day Saint movement • Latter Day Saint polygamy in the late 19th century • Legal status of polygamy • Legality of polygamy • Lost boys (polygamy) • Mormonism and polygamy • Origin of Latter Day Saint polygamy • Polygamy around the world • Polygamy czar • Polygamy in Afghanistan • Polygamy in Algeria • Polygamy in Angola • Polygamy in Australia • Polygamy in Bahrain • Polygamy in Bangladesh • Polygamy in Bauchi State • Polygamy in Benin • Polygamy in Bhutan • Polygamy in Botswana • Polygamy in Burma • Polygamy in Burundi • Polygamy in Cameroon • Polygamy in Central African Republic • Polygamy in Chad • Polygamy in Christianity • Polygamy in Comoros • Polygamy in Cote d'Ivoire • Polygamy in Côte d'Ivoire • Polygamy in Democratic Republic of the Congo • Polygamy in Djibouti • Polygamy in Egypt • Polygamy in Equatorial Guinea • Polygamy in Eritrea • Polygamy in Ethiopia • Polygamy in France • Polygamy in Gabon • Polygamy in Ghana • Polygamy in Imo State • Polygamy in India • Polygamy in Indonesia • Polygamy in Iraqi Kurdistan • Polygamy in Islam • Polygamy in Kazakhstan • Polygamy in Kenya • Polygamy in Kuwait • Polygamy in Kwara State • Polygamy in Kyrgyzstan • Polygamy in Lagos State • Polygamy in Laos • Polygamy in Lesotho • Polygamy in Liberia • Polygamy in Libya • Polygamy in Malawi • Polygamy in Maldives • Polygamy in Mali • Polygamy in Mauritania • Polygamy in Mauritius • Polygamy in Mongolia • Polygamy in Morocco • Polygamy in Mozambique • Polygamy in Namibia • Polygamy in Nasarawa State • Polygamy in Niger • Polygamy in Nigeria • Polygamy in Niue • Polygamy in North America • Polygamy in Oyo State • Polygamy in Pakistan • Polygamy in Palestine • Polygamy in Plateau State • Polygamy in Puntland • Polygamy in Republic of the Congo • Polygamy in Russia • Polygamy in Rwanda • Polygamy in Saudi Arabia • Polygamy in Socotra • Polygamy in Somalia • Polygamy in Somaliland • Polygamy in South Africa • Polygamy in Southern Sudan • Polygamy in Sri Lanka • Polygamy in Sudan • Polygamy in Swaziland • Polygamy in Tajikistan • Polygamy in Thailand • Polygamy in The Gambia • Polygamy in Tunisia • Polygamy in Turkey • Polygamy in Turkmenistan • Polygamy in Uganda • Polygamy in Uzbekistan • Polygamy in Vietnam • Polygamy in Western Sahara • Polygamy in Yemen • Polygamy in Zambia • Polygamy in Zamfara State • Polygamy in Zimbabwe • Polygamy in the Central African Republic • Polygamy in the DR Congo • Polygamy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo • Polygamy in the Gaza Strip • Polygamy in the Ivory Coast • Polygamy in the Maldives • Polygamy in the Palestinian territories • Polygamy in the Republic of the Congo • Polygamy in the UAE • Polygamy in the United Arab Emirates • Polygamy in the United Kingdom • Polygamy in the United States • Polygamy in the West Bank • Serial polygamy
Couples, Family and Household, Family Characteristics, Family Demography, Family Life Surveys, Family Size, Family Size, Average, Family Size, Completed, Family Size, Desired, Family Size, Expected, Family Size, Ideal, Generations, Head of Household, Households, Matriarchy, One-Person Household, Patriarchy[Hyper.]
Polygamy (n.) [MeSH]
Polygamy (from πολύς γάμος polys gamos, translated literally in Late Greek as "often married") is a marriage which includes more than two partners. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, the relationship is called polygyny, and there is no marriage bond between the wives; and when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry, and there is no marriage bond between the husbands. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and wives, it can be called group marriage. The term is used in related ways in social anthropology, sociobiology, sociology, as well as in popular speech. In social anthropology, polygamy is the practice of a person's making him/herself available for two or more spouses to mate with. In contrast, monogamy is a marriage consisting of only two parties. Like monogamy, the term is often used in a de facto sense, applying regardless of whether the relationships are recognized by the state (see marriage for a discussion on the extent to which states can and do recognize potentially and actually polygamous forms as valid). In sociobiology and zoology, polygamy is used in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating.
|Legal status of polygamy|
|Recognized under civil law|
|Recognized in some regions|
|Foreign marriages recognized|
|Recognized under customary law|
|Status in other jurisdictions|
Polygamy exists in three specific forms: polygyny - wherein a man has multiple simultaneous wives; polyandry - wherein a woman has multiple simultaneous husbands; or group marriage - wherein the family unit consists of multiple husbands and multiple wives.
Historically, all three practices have been found, but polygyny is by far the most common. Confusion arises when the broad term "polygamy" is used when a specific form of polygamy is being referred to. Additionally, different countries may or may not include all forms in their Polygamy laws.
Polyandry is a practice wherein a woman has more than one husband at the same time. Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadic Tibetans in Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India, in which two or more brothers are married to the same wife, with the wife having equal 'sexual access' to them. The Indian epic the Mahabharata includes the polyandrous marriage of Draupadi to the five Pandava brothers. Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources, as it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival. It is a rare form of marriage that exists not only among poor families, but also the elite.
Group marriage is a marriage wherein the family unit consists of more than two partners, any of whom share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. Group marriage is a form of non-monogamy and polyamory.
According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry. At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely. There are exceptions: in Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple. To take on more than one wife often requires considerable resources: this may put polygamy beyond the means of the vast majority of people within those societies. Such appears the case in many traditional Islamic societies, and in Imperial China. Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth, power, and fame.
In Buddhism, marriage is not a sacrament. It is purely a secular affair and the monks do not participate in it, though in some sects priests and monks do marry (e.g. Japan). Hence it receives no religious sanction. Forms of marriage consequently vary from country to country. It is said in the Parabhava Sutta that "a man who is not satisfied with one woman and seeks out other women is on the path to decline". Other fragments in the Buddhist scripture can be found that seem to treat polygamy unfavorably, leading some authors to conclude that Buddhism generally does not approve of it or alternatively that it is a tolerated, but subordinate marital model.
Until 1935 polygyny was legally recognized in Thailand. In Burma, polygyny was also frequent. It is still legally recognized but very rarely practiced in modern day and socially less acceptable. In Sri Lanka, polyandry was practiced (though not widespread) till recent times. When the Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese, the concubines of others were added to the list of inappropriate partners. Polyandry in Tibet as well was common traditionally, as was polygyny, and having several wives or husbands was never regarded as having sex with inappropriate partners. Tibet is home to the largest and most flourishing polyandrous community in the world today. Most typically, fraternal polyandry is practiced, but sometimes father and son have a common wife, which is a unique family structure in the world. Other forms of marriage are also present, like group marriage and monogamous marriage. Polyandry (especially fraternal polyandry) is also common among Buddhists in Bhutan, Ladakh, and other parts of the Indian subcontinent.
The pre-Christian Celtic pagans were known to practice polygamy, although the Celtic peoples wavered between it, monogamy and polyandry depending on the time period and area. In some areas this continued on even after Christianisation began, for instance the Brehon Laws of Gaelic Ireland explicitly allowed for polygamy, especially amongst the noble class.
Saint Augustine saw a conflict with Old Testament polygyny. He refrained from judging the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygyny. On the contrary, he argued that the polygyny of the Fathers, which was tolerated by the Creator because of fertility, was a diversion from His original plan for human marriage. Augustine wrote: That the good purpose of marriage, however, is better promoted by one husband with one wife, than by a husband with several wives, is shown plainly enough by the very first union of a married pair, which was made by the Divine Being Himself.
Augustine taught that the reason patriarchs had many wives was not because of fornication, but because they wanted more children. He supported his premise by showing that their marriages, in which husband was the head, were arranged according to the rules of good management: those who are in command (quae principantur) in their society were always singular, while subordinates (subiecta) were multiple. He gave two examples of such relationships: dominus-servus - master-servant (in older translation: slave) and God-soul. The Bible often equates worshipping multiple gods, i.e. idolatry to fornication. Augustine relates to that: On this account there is no True God of souls, save One: but one soul by means of many false gods may commit fornication, but not be made fruitful.
As tribal populations grew, fertility was no longer a valid justification of polygamy: it was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce (utrum et nunc fas sit, non temere dixerim). For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bear children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful."
Augustine saw marriage as sacrament-friendly covenant between one man and one woman, which may not be broken. It was the Creator who established monogamy: Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Such marriage was confirmed by the Saviour in the Gospel of Matthew (Mat 19,9) and by His presence at the wedding in Cana (John 2:2). In the Church—the City of God—marriage is a sacrament and may not and cannot be dissolved as long as the spouses live: But a marriage once for all entered upon in the City of our God, where, even from the first union of the two, the man and the woman, marriage bears a certain sacramental character, can in no way be dissolved but by the death of one of them.. In chapter 7, Auguastine pointed out that the Roman Empire forbad polygamy, even if the reason of fertility would support it: For it is in a man’s power to put away a wife that is barren, and marry one of whom to have children. And yet it is not allowed; and now indeed in our times, and after the usage of Rome (nostris quidem iam temporibus ac more Romano), neither to marry in addition, so as to have more than one wife living. Further on he notices that the Church's attitude goes much further than the secular law regarding monogamy: It forbids re-marrying, considering such to be a form of fornication: And yet, save in the City of our God, in His Holy Mount, the case is not such with the wife. But, that the laws of the Gentiles are otherwise, who is there that knows not .
The New Testament does not specifically address the morality of polygamy. 1 Timothy, however, states that certain Church leaders should have but one wife: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach" (chapter 3, verse 2; see also verse 12 regarding deacons having only one wife). Similar counsel is repeated in the first chapter of the Epistle of Titus; however, the redactor of 1 Corinthians (chapter 7, verse 2) writes, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." In modern times a minority of Roman Catholic theologians have argued that polygyny, though not ideal, can be a legitimate form of Christian marriage in certain regions, in particular Africa. The Roman Catholic Church teaches in its Catechism that
"polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive."
Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygyny as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" (or "The Confessional Advice" ), Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication," a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret, however, to avoid public scandal. Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Brück, Luther stated that he could not "forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture." ("Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis.")
"On February 14, 1650, the parliament at Nürnberg decreed that, because so many men were killed during the Thirty Years’ War, the churches for the following ten years could not admit any man under the age of 60 into a monastery. Priests and ministers not bound by any monastery were allowed to marry. Lastly, the decree stated that every man was allowed to marry up to ten women. The men were admonished to behave honorably, provide for their wives properly, and prevent animosity among them."
The trend towards frequent divorce and remarriage is sometimes referred to as 'serial polygamy'. In contrast, others may refer to this as 'serial monogamy', since it is a series of monogamous relationships. The first term highlights the multiplicity of marriages throughout the life-cycle, the second the non-simultaneous nature of these marriages.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has often been a tension between the Christian churches' insistence on monogamy and traditional polygamy. In some instances in recent times there have been moves for accommodation; in other instances, churches have resisted such moves strongly. African Independent Churches have sometimes referred to those parts of the Old Testament which describe polygamy in defending the practice.
The Roman Catholic Church clearly condemns polygamy; the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists it in paragraph 2387 under the head "Other offenses against the dignity of marriage" and states that it "is not in accord with the moral law." Also in paragraph 1645 under the head "The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love" states "The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to husband and wife in mutual and unreserved affection. Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive."
The illegality of polygamy in certain areas creates, according to certain Bible passages, additional arguments against it. Paul of Tarsus writes "submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience" (Romans 13:5), for "the authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1) St Peter concurs when he says to "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13,14) Pro-polygamists argue that, as long as polygamists currently do not obtain legal marriage licenses nor seek "common law marriage status" for additional spouses, no enforced laws are being broken any more than when monogamous couples who similarly co-habitate without a marriage license.
|Mormonism and polygamy|
The history of Mormon polygamy (specifically polygyny) began with Joseph Smith, Jr., who stated he received a revelation on July 17, 1831 that "plural marriage" should be practiced by some Mormon men who were specifically commanded to do so. This was later published in the Doctrine and Covenants by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Despite Smith's revelation, the 1835 edition of the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, written after the doctrine of plural marriage began to be practiced, publicly condemned polygamy. This scripture was used by John Taylor in 1850 to quash Mormon polygamy rumors in Liverpool, England. Polygamy was made illegal in the state of Illinois during the 1839–44 Nauvoo era when several top Mormon leaders, including Smith, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, took plural wives. Mormon elders who publicly taught that all men were commanded to enter plural marriage were subject to harsh discipline. On June 7, 1844 the Nauvoo Expositor criticized Smith for plural marriage. After Joseph Smith's murder by a mob on June 27, 1844, the main body of Mormons left Nauvoo and followed Brigham Young to Utah where the practice of plural marriage continued.
In 1852 Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS Church publicly acknowledged the practice of plural marriage through a sermon he gave. Additional sermons by top Mormon leaders on the virtues of polygamy followed. Controversy followed when polygyny became a social cause, writers began to publish works condemning polygamy. The key plank of the Republican Party's 1856 platform was "to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery". In 1862, Congress issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act which clarified that the practice of polygamy was illegal in all US territories. The LDS Church believed that their religiously-based practice of plural marriage was protected by the United States Constitution, however, the unanimous 1878 Supreme Court decision Reynolds v. United States declared that polygamy was not protected by the Constitution, based on the longstanding legal principle that "laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices."
Increasingly harsh anti-polygamy legislation in the US led some Mormons to emigrate to Canada and Mexico. In 1890, LDS Church president Wilford Woodruff issued a public declaration (the Manifesto) announcing that the LDS Church had discontinued new plural marriages. Anti-Mormon sentiment waned, as did opposition to statehood for Utah. The Smoot Hearings in 1904, which documented that the LDS Church was still practicing polygamy spurred the LDS Church to issue a Second Manifesto again claiming that it had ceased performing new plural marriages. By 1910 the LDS Church excommunicated those who entered into, or performed, new plural marriages. Even so, many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s. The last documented mainstream LDS polygamous marriage was Edward Eyring, the grandfather of current LDS apostle Henry B. Eyring. One of the wives died in 1954, turning the marriage into a monogamous one.
Enforcement of the 1890 Manifesto caused various splinter groups to leave the LDS Church in order to continue the practice of plural marriage. Polygamy among these groups persists today in Utah and neighboring states as well as in the spin-off colonies. Polygamist churches of Mormon origin are often referred to as "Mormon fundamentalist" even though they are not a part of the LDS Church. Such fundamentalists often use a purported 1886 revelation to John Taylor as the basis for their authority to continue the practice of plural marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune stated in 2005 there were as many as 37,000 fundamentalists with less than half of them living in polygamous households.
So the fundamentalist Mormons who insist that polygamy is biblical are right, in a sense. If you're going to be a strict literalist, there's nothing wrong with polygamy.—Michael Coogan, "What the Bible Has to Say About Sex" by Alexandra Silver
Polygamy was practiced in many sections of Hindu society in ancient times. There was one example of polyandry in the ancient Hindu epic, Mahabharata, Draupadi marries the five Pandava brothers. Regarding polygyny, in Ramayana, father of Ram, King Dasharath has three wives, but Ram has pledged himself just one wife.
The Hindu god, Lord Krishna, the 9th incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu is supposed to have had 16,108 wives at his kingdom in Dwarka. In the post-Vedic periods, polygamy declined in Hinduism, and is now considered immoral, although it is thought that some sections of Hindu society still practice polygyny, in the areas of Nepal.
Marriage laws in India are dependent upon the religion of the subject in question. Although the Vedas and the Hindu religion itself do not outlaw polygamy, the terms under the Hindu Marriage Act has deemed polygamy to be illegal for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs. Only Muslim men in India are allowed to have upto 4 wives, since they are governed under Sharia law.
In Islam, polygyny is allowed, with the specific limitation that a man can have up to four wives at any one time. Muhammad had eleven wives. The Qur'an clearly states that men who choose this route must deal with their wives justly. If the husband fears that he cannot deal with his wives justly, then he should only marry one. The Qur'an does not give preference in marrying more than one wife but allows it to make it easier on a woman that has no support. Islamic scholars opinion that the husband must tell the first wife if he wants to marry another. A husband does not have to have permission from his first wife. Women, on the other hand, are only allowed to marry one husband, although they are allowed to remarry after a divorce. Although many Muslim countries still retain traditional Islamic law which permits polygamy, secular elements within some Muslim societies challenge its acceptability. Polygamy is prohibited by law in some Muslim-majority countries that have not adopted Islamic law for marital regulations, such as Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Turkey.
Polygamy, and laws concerning polygamy, differ greatly throughout the Islamic world and form a very complex and diverse background from nation to nation. Whereas in some Muslim countries it may be fairly common, in most others it is often rare or non-existent. According to traditional Islamic law, a man may take up to four wives, and each of those wives must have her own property, assets, and dowry. Usually the wives have little to no contact with each other and lead separate, individual lives in their own houses, and sometimes in different cities, though they all share the same husband. Polygamy is an exception rather than the rule and is traditionally restricted to men who can manage things, and in some countries it is illegal for a man to marry multiple wives if he is unable to afford to take care of each of them properly.
In the modern Islamic world, polygamy is mainly found in Saudi Arabia, and West and East Africa; in Sudan it was encouraged by the president in 2001 to increase the population. Among the 22 member states of the Arab League, Tunisia alone explicitly prohibits polygamy; however, it is generally frowned upon in many of the more secularized Arab states, such as Egypt. Few other countries including Libya and Morocco require the written permission of the first wife if her husband wishes to marry a second, third, or fourth wife.
Multiple marriage was considered a realistic alternative in the case of famine, widowhood, or female infertility like in the practice of levirate marriage, wherein a man was required to marry and support his deceased brother's widow, as mandated by Deuteronomy 25:5–10. Despite its prevalence in the Hebrew bible, scholars do not believe that polygyny was commonly practiced in the biblical era because it required a significant amount of wealth.
Polygyny continued to be practised well into the biblical period, and it is attested among Jews as late as the second century CE.
The Torah, Judaism's central text, includes a few specific regulations on the practice of polygamy, such as Exodus 21:10, which states that multiple marriages are not to diminish the status of the first wife (specifically, her right to food, clothing, and conjugal relations). Deuteronomy 21:15–17, states that a man must award the inheritance due to a first-born son to the son who was actually born first, even if he hates that son's mother and likes another wife more; and Deuteronomy 17:17 states that the king shall not have too many wives. The king's behavior is condemned by Prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 8. Exodus 21:10 also speaks of Jewish concubines. Israeli lexicographer Vadim Cherny argues that the Torah carefully distinguishes concubines and "sub-standard" wives with prefix "to" (lit. "took to wives").
Rabbi Chaim Gruber speculates that the underlying reason why the Torah allows a man more than one wife at a time, while a woman is permitted only one husband at a time, is biological.: No one could argue that a man has the ability to simultaneously father children with more than one woman. However, a woman does not become simultaneously pregnant from more than one man (except under a very rare circumstance called heteropaternal superfecundation. This is when a woman ovulated two eggs so to be able to conceive fraternal twins, and then had sex with two different men in a short period of time, and then happened to have each egg fertilized by a different one of these men.). Therefore, as “marriage,” in strict or broad sense, means a joining together, as the genes of a man can simultaneously be joined together with the genes of multiple women via different conceptions, a man, Rabbi Gruber states, can be married to more than one woman at once. A woman, however, is not naturally so joined to more than one man at a time. This considered, the rabbi speculates that the intent of the allowance of polygamy is “not to say that monogamous marriage isn’t ideal,” but rather to create a social structure inclusive of this natural phenomenon; “…as a man may be linked to several women at once, it is better to consider these multiple relationships legit, than to criminalize them and put them outside the bounds of normality. Doing so would wrongly shame many as ‘living in sin,’ and also unjustly condemn countless kids as ‘bastards’.”
In the modern day, polygamy is uncommon in Rabbinic Judaism, especially among European Jews. Ashkenazi Jews have followed Rabbenu Gershom's ban since the 11th century. Some Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews (particularly those from North Africa, Yemen, Kurdistan, and Iran) discontinued polygamy much more recently, as they emigrated to countries where it was forbidden. However polygamy still occurs in non-European Jewish communities that exist in countries where it is not forbidden, such as Jewish communities in Yemen and the Arab world.
Among Karaite Jews, who do not adhere to Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah, polygamy is almost non-existent today. Like other Jews, Karaites interpret Leviticus 18:18 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if his first wife gives her consent (Keter Torah on Leviticus, pp. 96–97) and Karaites interpret Exodus 21:10 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if he is capable of maintaining the same level of marital duties due to his first wife; the marital duties are 1) food, 2) clothing, and 3) sexual gratification. Because of these two biblical limitations and because most countries outlaw it, polygamy is considered highly impractical, and there are only a few known cases of it among Karaite Jews today.
Israel, in accordance with Western ethics, has made polygamy illegal. Provisions were instituted to allow for existing polygamous families immigrating from countries where the practice was legal. Furthermore, former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef has come out in favor of legalizing polygamy and the practice of pilegesh (concubine) by the Israeli government.
Tzvi Zohar, a professor from the Bar-Ilan University, recently suggested that based on the opinions of leading halachic authorities, the concept of concubines may serve as a practical Halachic justification for premarital or non-marital cohabitation.
In countries that do not permit polygamy, the practice is considered bigamy. In countries where polygamy is outlawed, consent from a prior spouse makes no difference to the validity of the second marriage and the second marriage is considered legally null and void. Laws usually do exist to protect the rights of an unsuspecting second spouse and any children from the otherwise invalid marriage.
Polygamy existed all over Africa as an aspect of culture or/and religion. Plural marriages have been more common than not in the history of Africa. Many African societies saw children as a form of wealth thus the more children a family had the more powerful it was. Thus polygamy was part of empire building. It was only during the colonial era that plural marriage was perceived as taboo. Esther Stanford, an African-focused lawyer, states that this decline was encouraged because the issues of property ownership conflicted with European colonial interest. Polygamy is very common in West Africa. However, the diffusion of Islam to this region has decreased the prevalence of polygamy in this region, due to restrictions on number of wives.
After a BBC television interview with Mohammed Bello Abubakar, articles were published in newspapers around the world about his 86 wives and 170 children, and he faced the death penalty under Sharia law if he did not divorce 82 of them.
In South Africa, traditionalists commonly practice polygamy. The president, Jacob Zuma is also openly in favor of plural marriages, being married to three wives himself. He has a total of twenty-nine children with these and four previous wives.
The Chinese culture of Confucianism and thus the practice of polygamy spread from China to Japan and areas that are now Vietnam. Before their modernizations, East Asian countries permitted similar practices of polygamy.
A 2011 opinion poll showed that most Malaysians and Indonesians youth opposed polygamy. The results were considered "remarkable" given that the youth were otherwise religiously conservative (those surveyed advocated the hijab for women, and opposed premarital sex).
Polygyny, permitted under Islamic law, is present amongst some Muslims in South Asia.
Polygamy is illegal in India for Hindus and other religious groups under the Hindu marriage Act. It remains legal for Muslims under the terms of The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, as interpreted by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. .
Polygamy is generally quite rare in urban areas, and among the cosmopolitan middle classes.
Until polygamy was outlawed by King Rama VI, it was expected that wealthy or upper-class Thai men were historically recognized to maintain mansions consisting of multiple wives and their children in the same residence. Among the royalty and courtiers in the past, wives were classified as principal, secondary, and slave. Today, the tradition of minor wives still remains, but the practice is different from that of the past. Due to the expense involved, minor wives are mostly limited to the wealthy men. While a "proper woman" (Kulasatrii; Thai: กุลสตรี) must remain faithful to her husband, there were no equivalent rules in history mandating fidelity in the "virtuous man."
Regardless of the historical acceptance, male polygamy or plural marriage is no longer legally or socially acceptable in the contemporary Thai society. However, the practice of having "minor wives" (Mia-Noi: เมียน้อย) continues in modern days in secrecy from the "primary wife" (Mia-Luang: เมียหลวง). Almost all married Thai women today object to this practice, and indeed for many it has been grounds for divorce. Minor wives are viewed with contempt by the Thai society along the lines of being amoral women or home breakers.
Technically, ever since the Han Dynasty, it had been unlawful for Chinese men to have more than one wife. However, throughout the history of imperial China, it had been common for the rich and influential Chinese men to have one wife and various concubines. Polygamy in China is considered to be a by-product of the tradition of emphasis on procreation and the continuity of the father's family name. Although the establishment of the Republic of China made it explicitly unlawful for a man to have multiple spouses/concubines, such legislation were generally not enforced, especially among the societal elites who were most likely to live such lifestyles. The most serious changes occurred during and after the Communist Revolution, where traditions considered backward and feudal (such as concubinage, foot-binding, slavery, prostitution, etc.) were thoroughly outlawed and severely punished for. It is illegal in modern China to have more than one spouse for either sex. Polygamy is only usually seen in southwest China.
The traditional attitude toward mistresses is reflected in the saying: "wife is not as good as concubine, concubine is not as good as prostitute, prostitute is not as good as secret affair, secret affair is not as good as the affair you want but can't get" (妻不如妾, 妾不如妓, 妓不如偷, 偷不如偷不著).
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David Friedman and Steve Sailer have argued that polygamy tends to benefit most women and disadvantage most men, under the assumption that most men and women do not practice it. The idea is firstly that many women would prefer half or one third of someone especially appealing to being the single spouse of someone that does not provide as much economic utility to them. Secondly, that the remaining women have a better market for finding a spouse themselves. Say that 20% of women are married to 10% of men, that leaves 90% of men to compete over the remaining 80% of women. Friedman uses this viewpoint to argue in favor of legalizing polygamy, while Sailer uses it to argue against legalizing it.
Those who advocate a Federal Marriage Amendment to the American Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage generally word their proposed laws to also prohibit polygamy. Many proponents of same-sex marriage are also in favour of maintaining current statutory prohibitions against polygamy.
Stanley Kurtz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, lamented the modern arguments increasingly being made by various intellectuals who call for de-criminalizing polygamy. Kurtz concluded, "Marriage, as its ultramodern critics would like to say, is indeed about choosing one's partner, and about freedom in a society that values freedom. But that's not the only thing it is about. As the Supreme Court justices who unanimously decided Reynolds in 1878 understood, marriage is also about sustaining the conditions in which freedom can thrive. Polygamy in all its forms is a recipe for social structures that inhibit and ultimately undermine social freedom and democracy. A hard-won lesson of Western history is that genuine democratic self-rule begins at the hearth of the monogamous family."
In Nazi Germany, there was an effort by Martin Bormann and Heinrich Himmler to introduce new legislation concerning plural marriage. The argument ran that after the war, 3 to 4 million women would have to remain unmarried due to the great number of soldiers fallen in battle. In order to make it possible for these women to have children, a procedure for application and selection for suitable men (i.e. decorated war heroes) to enter a marital relationship with an additional woman was planned. The privileged position of the first wife was to be secured by awarding her the title Domina.
The greatest fighter deserves the most beautiful woman ... If the German man is to be unreservedly ready to die as a soldier, he must have the freedom to love unreservedly. For struggle and love belong together. The philistine should be glad if he gets whatever is left—Adolf Hitler, 
A number of writers have expressed their views on polygamy by writing about a fictional world in which it is the most common type of relationship. These worlds tend to be utopian or dystopian in nature.
For instance, Robert A. Heinlein uses this theme in a number of novels, such as Stranger in a Strange Land, as well as his later works such as Time Enough for Love, Number of the Beast, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.
Conversely, Fritz Leiber explores polyandry in a 1951 story, Nice Girl with Five Husbands.
Polygamy is practiced by the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune as a means to pinpoint male infertility. It is socially accepted as long as the man provides for all wives equally. Cultures described within the Dune novel series have intentional similarities to Islamic, Arab, and other cultures – i.e. desert cultures.
Similarly, the Aiel society in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series practice a form of polygamy, in which multiple women may marry the same man; in that fictional culture, women are the ones who propose marriage. Among Aiel, sisters or very close friends who have adopted each other as sisters, will often marry the same man, so that he will not come between them.
In David Weber's Honor Harrington series, the inhabitants of the planet Grayson practice polygamy (polygyny) due to the human colonists to the planet acquiring a genetic defect that gave rise to a large women-to-men birth ratio combined with a high infant mortality. Honor Harrington herself is married to Hamish Alexander as his second wife alongside Emily Alexander. Their surname then becomes Alexander-Harrington.
Wen Spencer's science fiction novel A Brother's Price describes a society where men are very rare and protected, and multiple sisters typically marry one man. In the novel Ruins of Isis, mention is made of a culture where a type of group marriage is performed-a group of 4 people minimum, two men, two women to start.
In the Star Trek television series Enterprise, the ship's physician, Dr. Phlox (who is a Denobulan) has three wives, each of whom has three husbands of her own (including him). One of his wives seemed to be interested in having extramarital relations with a human, which Phlox himself did not oppose, and even encouraged. It has also been stated that the Andorian species enter into group marriages (although whether this is due to societal custom or biological necessity has not been established onscreen, but left to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch original novels.)
In the Sci-Fi television series Babylon 5 the Centauris allow for men to have more than one wife. In Star Wars Expanded Universe, it is explained that Cereans (like Ki-Adi-Mundi) have a much higher birth-rate of girls than boys. Thus, every male Cerean must have one wife and multiple "honor wives", to increase the chance of giving birth to another male. Jedi Cerean Ki-Adi-Mundi was allowed to marry multiple times, although Jedi were not supposed to marry at his time; but Ki-Adi-Mundi got a dispense of that norm.
Jean M. Auel in the pre-historic Earth's Children series depicted several instances of "co-mating," where a person could have more than one mate. Examples included the headwoman Tulie in the The Mammoth Hunters, and a man who married a pair of twins in the The Shelters of Stone. Also of note was Vincavec, the headman of the Mammoth Camp who wished to mate with the protagonist Ayla and was willing to take her Promised, Ranec, implying a bisexual relationship as well.
In the Chinese Wuxia novel The Deer and the Cauldron by Hong Kong writer Louis Cha, set in the Qing Dynasty era during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, the protagonist Wei Xiaobao has seven wives. The novel has spawned numerous film and TV series adaptations since the 1960s.
Random House published David Ebershoff's novel The 19th Wife in 2008. It is about Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young's wives, and the legacy of Mormon polygamy in the United States today. "The Chosen One" was written by Carol Lynch Williams. It was published in 2009, and is the story of a young girl named Kyra who runs away from her Christian polygamist Compound. A Home at the End of the World is a novel by Michael Cunningham about a polygamous family. It was later adapted into a film. Both explore issues of homosexuality and families. Big Love is an HBO series about a polygamous family in Utah in the first decade of the 21st century. In the series, Bill Henrickson has three wives and eight children, who belong to a fundamentalist Mormon splinter group. Big Love explores the complex legal, moral, and religious issues associated with polygamy in Utah. Henrickson's three wives each have separate houses beside one another, with a shared backyard. By outward appearances, he lives with his primary wife, and has two "friends" living close by, while in reality taking turns sleeping at a different house each night. Henrickson effectively balances his work, the continuing demands of his wives, and his wives' relatives.
In September 2010 TLC premiered a reality television series entitled Sister Wives, which deals with polygamy by a self-described fundamentalist Mormon family in modern day Utah. On July 13, 2011, the show's husband and his wives filed a complaint in United States District Court to challenge Utah's law against polygamy.
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