Customarily, the majority of African societies have practiced a tradition of polygamy. This tradition allows a man to have as many wives as he can support. These wives were married according to local custom and they were all legal. Such a practice was not considered evil or immoral.
Women also seemed to be comfortable with polygamy because they thought it the order of the day.
Back then; having many wives was a sign of wealth. A man’s wealth was measured by the number of his wives as well as the number of his children and cattle or livestock. It was prestigious to have many wives.
In political terms, the more wives one had, the more political alliances one could form, and therefore, become a very powerful power broker and effective politician or tribal leader, chief or king.
The polygamy tendency went as far as involving the economic factor where in agricultural societies, human labour was essential and therefore, polygamy provided more hands to work in the fields and produce more food, or more cash crops for sale.
It was also associated with security in that women and children were safer in larger households where they were better protected from aggressors.
Pride was associated with a larger family and shame and low self-esteem were associated with small families which were symbolic of poverty.
But modernisation as a result of education and other factors set in, some people started to oppose polygamy because according to many, there was nothing good about it save for the pain it inflicted most especially on the women and children.
Nevertheless, one cannot say that polygamy is a thing of the past because even in the present and contemporary epoch, it is being practiced in form of co-habitation.
In modern times when some workers live in the city, they may prefer to have two wives and two families; one in the city and the other in the rural area on the ancestral land.
As a result, many families have had to go through a lot of conflicts due to polygamy and its usual financial, emotional and other constraints.
Women in polygamous families in Rwanda and the neighbouring countries that I know of are involved in marital conflicts, each fighting for their rights and this antagonism does spread even to the children.
Fighting for property and favour from the head of the family take centre stage. These conflicts are long term and do create confusion in the rather supposed to be intact family.
Research shows that polygamy is legally and widely practiced in 850 societies across the globe, nonetheless polygamous marriages are neither lawful nor is the practice itself in Rwanda as a country.
However, polygamy has been reported to be prevalent in more rural areas, though seen to be decreasing.
The Rwandan constitution explicitly bans all forms of non-monogamous marriages from being recognized under civil law and does not allow for customary law to recognize such unions either.
In this case therefore, those members of our society who still prefer to go polygamy should think twice and see the complex of the problem that is created by this action in our society.
Polygamy turns homes into war zones which I think any man who loves his family would ever want to see.
It doesn’t stop at that alone but can also bring in a lot of bad effects like in-house strife, quarrels, suspicion, division, envy and murder.
Whether one is publicly or privately polygamous, as a parent he must well be aware that the example he is setting is a bad one to his children because these are the same people who at the end will want to step in his shoes.
Polygamy is an out dated culture in our society. Let us all embrace monogamy and seek to have more peaceful families which every member will be proud to call home and thus shall break-ups that are mainly caused by the action be a thing of the past in our beautiful society.