DISCUSSION: South Africans Are Debating A Woman’s Right To Have More Than One Husband😳. What Do You Think?

Polyandry in South Africa
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A proposal to legalize polyandry in South Africa is causing an outcry (Photo credit Arise News)
A proposal to legalize polyandry in South Africa is causing an outcry (Photo credit: Arise News)

South African government has put forward a proposal to legalize polyandry, a type of marriage where a woman marries multiple husbands. This move has sparked widespread uproar and debate in the country. The proposal to legitimize polyandry in South Africa was included in a green paper that was published by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The paper notes that,

“In 1994, South Africa inherited a marriage regime that was based on the Calvinist Christian and Western traditions…. The legislation that regulates marriages in South Africa is not informed by an overarching policy that is based on constitutional values and the understanding of modern society dynamics.”

South Africa’s constitution is one of the most liberal in the world. It legalizes polygamy and same-sex marriages. Human rights and gender activists have been pushing the government to also legalize polyandry. In an attempt to strengthen the marriage legislation, DHA is developing a marriage policy that will be a foundation for drafting a more inclusive marriage law. The aim of publishing the green paper was to allow the public to give their comments on the issues the department wants to address.

Outcry over Legalizing Polyandry in South Africa

polyandry in South Africa
The complexity of Polyandry

According to gender and human rights activists, “equality demands that polyandry be legally recognized as a form of marriage.” Their argument on equality is based on the fact that men are permitted to marry many wives under the customary law. But other people hold a contrary opinion. Traditional leaders insist that polyandry isn’t of African origin, and for that reason, it is an unacceptable practice.

Also, religious leaders in South Africa believe polyandry isn’t authentically African and thus it is not acceptable. In an interview with eNCA, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, said although polygamy is “an accepted practice,” polyandry is not. He added that a marriage with one wife and many husbands cannot work because men are possessive and jealous.

While speaking to the BBC, Professor Collis Machoko said “African societies are not ready for true equality. We don’t know what to do with women we cannot control.” TV personality and businessman Musa Mseleku is also opposed to polyandry. He said,

“This will destroy African culture. What about the children of those people? How will they know their identity? 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?”

In response to the public outcry, Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, clarified that the proposals outlined in the green paper are not the government’s official position. Thus, he encouraged the public to continue debating on the issues. According to Motsoaledi,

“[The green paper] only articulates possible policy options or proposals that are based on inputs received from stakeholders during ministerial dialogues. Therefore, these proposals will be subjected to public scrutiny.”

Reactions on Twitter

Many South Africans expressed their views on social media. While some are in support of legalizing polyandry in South Africa, others strongly condemn the idea. However, each of the sides has strong reasons to back up their argument. Here are some interesting tweets.

polyandry in South Africa
Married black polygamy family having therapeutical meeting at psychologist office. Three african american people sitting on a couch. Flat style stock vector illustration.

Indeed, many conservatives in South Africa disagree with the polyandry proposal. The public had until the end of June to give their responses to the Department of Home Affairs. The department anticipated that it would receive competing opinions from the public. However, it will not consider views that undermine the rights of other people.

If the proposal to allow polyandry in South Africa becomes law, the country will join Gabon in allowing women to marry more than one man. Do you think Africa is ready for equality? We would love to hear your view in the comments section below.


What is your stand on legalizing polyandry in South Africa?

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