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Going Against Patriarchy?

There is no end to the controversy over marriage, be it Polyandry or Polygyny. While some Psychologists believe that the culture of having more than one spouse is quite normal for Human Beings, Sociologists opine that it is grossly unfair to get involved in physical relationship with more than one partner. The practice of Polygamy has been going on for centuries in different parts of the globe, and it has also been socially recognised in those places. The Government of South Africa recently triggered a controversy by planning to leglise Polyandry, a form of Polygamy in which a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time.

Although Polygyny (involving one male and two or more females) is recognised in the African Nation, a section of people in South Africa is reluctant to accept Polyandry. Interestingly, this is not the first time when Cape Town has decided to legalise Polyandry. The Government of South Africa started making preparations for this in 2019. In the last couple of years, the Government has discussed the issue with various religious and social leaders, and Human Rights Activists before making a final decision in this regard. However, a section of people is not ready to accept Polyandry, as they believe that the practice would destroy the existing Social Structure of the country.

South Africa’s most famous Businessman and Reality TV star Musa Mseleku, a veritable practitioner in Polygamy, has expressed serious concern over the Government’s proposal, saying: “This will destroy African Culture. What about the children of those people? How will they know their identity?” Mseleku, who has four wives, stressed: “The woman cannot now take the role of the man. It’s unheard of. Will the woman now pay lobola (bride price) for the man? Will the man be expected to take her surname?” Meanwhile, those, who are in favour of Government’s decision, have argued that Polygyny is a common practice in South Africa. However, it has not destroyed the Culture and the Social Structure so far!

Mseleku with his wives

The practice of Polyandry is an old one in this world. However, the evolution of human civilisation and modern education have obsoleted this practice. Still, Polyandry, as well as Polygyny, still exist in different parts of the world, as it is practiced among some tribes in India and on Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Kinnaur is the most scenic, but less known district of northern Indian Province of Himachal Pradesh near the Indo-Tibet border. There, a woman has to marry all the brothers of the same family. The local people call this practice ‘Draupadi System‘. According to experts, the socio-economic situation of the region plays an important role in this regard. As Kinnaur is a hilly and inaccessible area, the financial situation of the locals are not very good. Each family has only nominal land as its property. It would be practically impossible for the brothers to run their families on the basis of income from the land, if they divide the land among them. Perhaps, the practice of Draupadi System was introduced in this region with the idea that the land should not be divided among the brothers.

The situation in South Africa is somewhat different.

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