Polygamous marriages: Do they really work out?

The news that has had tongues wagging across the continent for the last couple of days is the marriage of South African President, Jacob Zuma to his sixth wife.

The news that has had tongues wagging across the continent for the last couple of days is the marriage of South African President, Jacob Zuma to his sixth wife. He is believed to have at least 20 children and the fact that he’s married again only means that he will soon probably have more children.

Well, in most African countries this wedding is definitely not a big deal because polygamy is looked at as a mark of prestige and high social standing.

Some men are even held in high esteem simply because they have many wives and children. As long as they can ably take good care of their wives and children, then they are good to go and there is no crime at all.

These perceptions in most African countries have a lot to do with cultural influence from the past. However, when it comes to Rwanda polygamy is absolutely not tolerated.

Only monogamous marriages are recognised within the confines of law in Rwanda. The Rwandan constitution explicitly bans all forms of polygamous marriages from being recognised under civil law and doesn’t allow for customary law to recognise such unions as well.

Some might think it’s just a question of having the financial ability to capably sustain more than one wife and children; however, it’s much more than that.

Others might also conclude that Rwanda infringes on people’s rights to having more than one partner but at the end of the day, it’s for the good of the family and for the sake of peace, when a man is only able to marry one woman.

Yvonne Abatoni, a Kigali businesswoman dealing in women’s clothes and mother of three, said,  having had a chance to live in a nearby country where polygamy is legal, she knows why one hardly hears of cases of acid being thrown on rivals, children being starved to death, witchcraft or women hacking each other with machetes in this country..

In the particular country where she lived previously, a third of the news involved cases of violence revolving around co-wives fighting, killing, witchcraft or women brutally and horribly mistreating their stepchildren.

“Well, this just shows how it’s almost impossible for a household to be peaceful when there is more than one wife. Women married to one man can never be emotionally satisfied even when the husband is able to meet all their financial and physical needs,” Abatoni said.

“There is always that bit of jealousy when a woman knows she is sharing her man with someone else, which I think is natural, she observes. Which sane woman would honestly be happy to share a man”?

Josephine Kananura, a resident of Kimironko and mother of five, says polygamous marriages are only a source of misunderstandings in families.

“Some families have taken this road and may act like all is well but if you sit down with the women and children in polygamous marriages, they are not happy. At some point, the man is emotionally and financially driven to offer more care to one wife and maybe selected children, thereby dividing attention which then leads to wrangles,” she said.

Kananura said the reason most marriages break up or women end up hurting each other is because they are hurting and not getting all the emotional attention they ought to get in a relationship.

She argues that there will never be happiness in a home as long as there is polygamy.

Well, while some might think that it’s prestigious to have more than one wife, it makes the whole issue of love nonexistent. If a man loves their woman enough, then they would not look for a second one since they care about the feelings of their current wife.

I am certain that no woman in a polygamous marriage is happy and as for the man who does this, they are the kind that doesn’t appreciate what they have.

Before we make such choices of being a second, third wife or getting another wife, let’s think through the consequences and gauge whether we are able to bear with them.


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