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Polygamy: its religious roots and present world

Updated on December 10, 2014

Polygamy is legal.

Of course not in US, Canada, UK or other countries where even bigamy is not legal. However, there are many countries where polygamy is considered legal by law and by civil society. In some instances, like India, polygamy is illegal by law, but it is still practiced by the civil society.

Polygamy is where a man has two or more than two wives. Not essentially, all wives may or may not live in the same house. There is another term that is similar to polygamy called bigamy which refers to a man having two wives.

Polygamy religious roots explained

"Compelling . . . the book speaks to the ways isolation, fear and secrecy can shelter insidious abuses until someone has the courage to step forward as a witnes

Polygamy and religion

Polygamy is a phenomena since the essence of time but after Adam and Eve. Its is one of the ancient practices that is prevalent today. Here are what populace religions talk about polygamy according to their religious scriptures:


"A man can marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can marry", Exodus 21:10


"King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines", 1 Kings 11:3


"Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess", Quran 4:3


"A Brahmana can take three wives. A Kshatriya can take two wives. As regards the Vaishya, he should take a wife from only his own order. The children born of these wives should be regarded as equal." (Anusasana Parva, Section XLIV)

Should polygamy be permitted?

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Polygamy and present world

Many societies, cultures and constitutions across the globe not only supports polygamy but also legalizes it. However, present world diction by scholars, researchers and populace insights have made case against polygamous relationships so as so forth unrecognises where it is legalized. For instance, Canadian immigration laws prohibit people with polygamous relations to come to Canada.

New generation find it hard to digest that men can have more than one mate legally even where its supported by religion as well as law.

Do you know what percentage of countries allow polygamy?

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Countries where polygamy is legal

Almost all Muslim countries where Sharia (Muslim law) prevails and many Asian cultures permits polygamous relationships. Countries that permits polygamy are:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Algeria
  3. Bahrain
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Brunei
  6. Burkina Faso
  7. Cameroon
  8. Central African
  9. RepublicChad
  10. Comoros
  11. Djibouti
  12. Gabon
  13. Gambia
  14. Indonesia
  15. Iran
  16. Iraq
  17. Jordan
  18. Kuwait
  19. Lebanon
  20. Maldives
  21. Mali
  22. Mauritania
  23. Mongolia
  24. Morocco
  25. Myanmar
  26. Niger
  27. Northern Nigeria
  28. Oman
  29. Pakistan
  30. Qatar
  31. Republic of Congo
  32. Saudia Arabia
  33. Senegal Eritrea
  34. Somalia
  35. Sudan
  36. Syria
  37. Tanzania
  38. Togo
  39. Uganda
  40. United Arab Emirates
  41. Western Sahara
  42. Yemen
  43. Zambia

Countries where it is recognized or the cultural norms but not legalized are:

  1. Bhutan
  2. Botswana
  3. Equatorial Guinea
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. Kenya
  6. Lesotho
  7. Liberia
  8. Malawi
  9. Mozambique
  10. Namibia
  11. Nigeria
  12. Sierra Leone
  13. South Africa
  14. Swaziland
  15. Tajikistan
  16. Thailand
  17. Zimbabwe

Constitution prohibits civil society permits

In India and in countries where polygamy is prevalent since ancient times, the institution of polygamous marriages continues. Though the government has made it illegal to marry two or more women at a time, yet there are people marrying 2, 3 or more women. Main reason being old age cultural norms and freedom to practice religion. In India where 30%-40% people belong to Islam, and where constitution clearly says that everyone can follow their religion, prohibiting polygamy in its entirety is not possible.

Even in moderate Muslim societies like Pakistan and Egypt, where constitution does state that man cannot have more than one wife without the permission of first ones, there are people engaged in polygamous relationships just because its permitted by Sharia.

What do men get out of polygamy?

Jokes apart, its a heavy responsibility. With many wives and their all the more children, its hard to imagine that all their needs are met unless the man earns heavy. Moreover, what makes the situation really difficult is the span of attention and the favoritism towards wives/children living in the same dwelling.

What do women get out of polygamy?

Practically speaking, nothing. Some people do advocate shelter and livelihood, but emotionally, its a rollercoaster ride.

What do children of polygamous relations get?

Most probably a happy ending with great many siblings.

Polygamy- Yes or No

That depends on one's values, customs and religion. For some people is quite normal while for some its outrageous. As we cannot say to anyone what to wear and what not to, similarly we cannot dictate cultural norms and ways of life to some people just because other have a problem with it. Only where its believed that its harmful for the society as a whole, then only it can be judged at in its entirety, not otherwise.

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Countries where polygamy is legalized only for Muslims are:

  1. Egypt
  2. Gaza
  3. India
  4. Malaysia
  5. Maldives
  6. Mauritius
  7. Singapore
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. West Bank


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