Vincent Biziyaremye has been cohabiting with two women for the last 12 years. Although he finds time for the cowives, he says, he has failed to cope with the persistent wrangles as well as the limited ability to cater for all his children.
The 37-year-old father of six lives with his partners on the outskirts of Rukomo Sector, Gicumbi District in Northern Province.
Biziyaremye said that before getting married, he knew that polygamy was against the law, but he says he was influenced by his elders’ past habits of marrying more than one wife.
“I copied the practice from my father, grandfather and other relatives. It was my father himself who ordered me to marry the second wife, and according to his wishes, I should have married a third one,” Biziyaremye told The New Times.
Biziyaremye, a subsistence farmer, married his first wife at 25. A year later, he married his second wife. He affirmed that juggling between two wives was “hell” and he had failed to quell their incessant quarrels.
“Many men like me will rarely disclose their polygamous relationship but I want to do so in order to warn those who may be thinking of getting other wives that it is a time bomb waiting to explode,” he noted.
“From my experience, satisfying my wives has never been easy, it is a challenge I can’t overcome by myself. I earn Rwf1,000 daily from farming activities I do for my neighbours. Therefore, I have to divide my wages with my wives who are never satisfied. Each one wishes to have a larger share, and that leads to disputes. I am not happy with polygamy” Bizimana said.
Residents and local authorities say polygamous marriages is the root cause for most domestic violence related cases, however officials assure that polygamy is decreasing thanks to a joint sensitisation on family’s safety by Government and its development partners.
Elisabeth Mujawamariya, the Vice Mayor in charge of Social affairs in Gicumbi District, told The New Times that authorities exploit parents’ evening forum (umugoroba w’ababyeyi), community work (umuganda) and the media, among other platforms, to mobilise families involved in polygamous marriage to legalise their relationship in a bid to reduce social disputes.
“Polygamy is yet to be eradicated but compared to previous years, we are doing better. Residents have significantly changed their mind-set and are opting for monogamous relationships,” she said.
Buhinja Ndejeje, 74, and his wife Patricia Mukamparirwa, 47, are among 116 cohabitating couples which responded to a recent joint call by Gicumbi District in partnership with S.O.S Village on legalising their union.
However, Buhinja had lived for 27 years with two wives until Mukamparirwa’s rival died exactly a year ago. “Before the other wife passed on, there was always a climate of fear and suspicion between my wives. I was worried about their relationship. I did not find anything good with having more than one wife,” he testified.
Mukamparirwa called on women not to accept polygamous marriages as it never lets partners feel the love.
“Women married to one man can never be emotionally satisfied even when the husband is able to meet all their financial and physical needs; I have witnessed this in the last 27 years,” she warned.