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Polyandry: When woman have many husbands

It is not unheard of for males to have multiple wives, and many cultural practises and faiths around the world even support the practice. However, hearing about a woman with numerous husbands is uncommon. Polyandry is a type of polygamy in which a woman marries more than one man at the same time.

Tibetans in Nepal, portions of China, and Northern India practice fraternal polyandry, in which two or more brothers marry the same woman, with the wife having equal “sexual access” to them.

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Polyandry Defined

Polyandry is officially defined as the practice or condition of having more than one husband or male mate simultaneously. Although it is illegal to have more than one husband in the United States, it does occur in some cultures. Polyandry overall is, however, among the rarest of human mating systems. Specifically, only 1.1% of cultures studied worldwide engage in polyandry.

Modern Polyandry

A polyandrous marriage is a very interesting concept with multiple aspects and methods of execution. In most instances, the married couples all live under the same roof or in the same area. Some have a hierarchy system where one husband is considered the primary or main husband, and the others are secondary. In this type of marriage, the primary husband will have greater privileges than the secondary husband or husbands. Like being the biological father of the child born from the marriage.

Goals and Justifications

There are some who are totally against this practice for different reasons. One is because when a woman has multiple husbands. And has sexual intercourse with them, and has a child. It would be difficult to determine who the actual father is without a DNA test. Other objectors are honest in their disapproval for a woman having such control over her relationships, her sexuality, and her freedom of choice.

However, many women who live this lifestyle don’t do it fo power over a man or to acquire multiple sex partners. Most women who participate in polyandry live in regions where there is a grave shortage of women in their region, and polyandry allows the men the opportunity to be with a woman. Such a shortage would, however, demand that he share her with other men.

In other cases, a woman having multiple husbands assures that the family property will remain together rather than being split. This is especially useful when fraternal polyandry is practiced and one woman marries several brothers.

Religious Bias

Most religions do not support polyandrous marriages, but many welcome polygyny. Meaning, a man with more than one wife. Judaism and Christianity promote monogamous marriage. In Islam, a man can have up to four wives as long as he is able to provide for them financially, but women are forbidden to have more than one husband.

The Mormon Church of Salt Lake City, Utah (also called the Church of Latter-Day Saints) strictly forbid polyandry, even though several men had more than one wife at the same time. Among the polygamous practitioners was the founder of the organisation, John Smith. Who was married to 40 women at the same time. The interesting twist is that these women were also married to other men, so by default the rule was broken by the person who set the rule in place.

In Hinduism, the example of Draupadi in the Hindu epic tale of Mahabharata is an example of fraternal polyandry, as she married five brothers.

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Tibetan Polyandry

The most recognised society that practices polyandry is a certain population in Tibet. This population comprises mainly farmers that raise livestock. Typically, farmland and livestock can only be gained through inheritance. Males with land and resources are considered the most desirable as mates. Historically, there existed a very strict class system in Tibet and only those of higher class were entitled to farmland and therefore deemed fit to support a wife. In such mountainous terrain, dividing farmland could be difficult as only certain areas are fertile, so rather than brothers dividing up farmland within an inherited estate, it was common for brothers to share the estate. 

Moreover, brothers typically would share a wife, known as fraternal polyandry, and marriages between one woman and two or more brothers would be arranged in early childhood by their parents. Once the marriages occurred, usually the oldest brother was considered the head of the household. Paternity of any resulting children typically was not known, but since the men involved are all genetically related, they found it acceptable to help invest in children that are indirectly related to them. Although monogamy (mating system between one woman and one man) has become more common in Tibet, fraternal polyandry is still practiced in rural areas. 

Polyandry Is Practiced In:

Nigeria

Although largely uncommon in Nigeria, there are tribes which exist that allow polyandry. Among the Irigwe of Northern Nigeria, women have traditionally acquired numerous partners called “co-husbands”. The Irigwe people of Nigeria practiced a woman having co-husbands until their council voted to outlaw it in 1968. Until then, women moved from house to house, taking on multiple partners, and the children’s paternity was assigned to the husband whose house the woman lived in at the time.

India

India as a country has more than one tribe practicing polyandry. Polyandry is prevalent in parts of North India by the Paharis people in the Jaunsar-Bawar region. While in Kinnaur Himachal, a minority of the people practice Polyandry. As descendants of the Pandavas, five brothers who were husbands to one woman named Draupadi, daughter of King Panchala. They believe their duty is to carry on the tradition. Asides them, the Toda tribe of Nilgiris, Nanjanad Vellala of Travancore and some Nair caste systems in South India also practice polyandry. A survey of 753 Tibetan families by Tibet University in 1988 found that 13% practiced polyandry.

Kenya

In August 2013, Kenya witnessed polyandry when two men decided to be husbands to a woman they both loved. It is noteworthy that Kenyan laws don’t explicitly forbid polyandry and legal action can’t be taken against people who practice it. There have also been reported cases of polyandry among the Maasai people of Kenya.

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China

The practice of fraternal polyandry is common among the people Tibet in the Nepalese parts of China and India. It is based on the belief that a child can have more than one father. Usually when two or more brothers marry one woman, they all have equal sexual access to her. The practice is encouraged if the family is poor and can’t divide their properties amongst the offsprings of separate fathers. So they keep their small farmlands and properties big by getting married to the same woman.

South America

Polyandry also exists among tribes in South America. The Tupi-Kawahib and the Bororo people of Brazil practice polyandry while up to 70 percent of Amazonian cultures may have believed in the principle of multiple paternity.

Conclusion

Polyandry is a practice of a woman having more than one husband or partners at the same time. In many tribes in the world this is normal. However, in the western world, it’s much more common to hear of men being the one with multiple partners. It will be an exciting day if and when all women decide that one lover is not enough. Multiple husbands just make sense to me because of more handy hands to help!

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