Consequences of a practice that challenges lawful disposals
The wedding is considered as the union of two persons, a man and a woman, officially recognized by law or local rules, willing live together for their entire life of couple. Though, it happens that this union is between more than two persons. A man may marry two, four or more women, depending on his means without any bother. Polygamy is this. Despite the fact that it is not recognized by family code in Benin Republic, this phenomenon is accepted by Islam and permitted by beninese tradition. An incursion in those polygamous families’ reality and the observation is goodless in regard to all the consequences coming from that practice.
Barnabas OROU KOUMAN
Since many years ago, polygamy is inked in men’s behavior. In other societies, the practice of polygamy is a sign of prosperity and ease. Some religions somewhere advise it. Polygamy designs the situation in which an individual is linked at the same time to many spouses. The phenomenon where a woman is married to many men is called polyandry and for men engaging with many women is polygyny. The notion of polygamy is fluently used to designate the union of a man with many women, however although it is rare does exist. Saying polygamy is then an abuse of language. One should say polygyny when talking about man with spouses because polygamy takes into account polyandry and polygyny.
Causes of polygamy
« My former wife is too jealous, make her crisis everyday and hardly satisfy my expectations », these are. Some reasons that lead some men to take another wife. Take a second spouse in those cases can be the settlement for the man and the woman. Some men, to settle the problem of some women’s barrenness are obliged to take another spouse. Other men practice polygamy to stop some women’s fancies. According to Allou Aliou, agricultural technician, « when a woman knows she is the only of her husband, she is too capricious. Also, it is good to have many half-brothers, for example I benefit a lot ». « You are cherished and well groomed of every side », he pursued. « I, my former wife can’t give birth and the second one can’t give me a boy child », Moussa complaints.
Apart from that, traditional and religious reasons encourage the situation. In some ethnics like Baatonu, polygamy is the sign of prosperity and ease. « Be married to only one wife is a disability », affirmed old Zimé.
In addition, there are some Muslims who believe that the Koran allows them to marry more than three wives as far as they have means to take care of them and their children. Issa a hauler living in Parakou said: « each of my wives got all they need and I assume their daily expenses. Also, my children are going to the best schools ». At the beginning, polygamy did not show any obvious danger, but by the time, its consequences appear.
Many consequences related to financial problem
Polygamy increases the couple’s charges and destroyed the children’s future. Some children blame their parents for being the causes of their failure in life.
«The horrible event of my life is that I was four when my father died and there was no one to take care of me in my studies. But there was one of the half brother decided to help us. Unfortunately, the remaining children disagreed and finally he didn’t help us. It’s true that I forgive them but I can’t forget that event of my life. If this event didn’t happen I may already become a great man today », confesses Gnansiglo Kokou Mensah Barnabé a child coming from polygamous family. «I for example, because of polygamy, I have to spend a lot, take care of my mothers, my brothers and sisters and also their family and this wears financially and prevent me from realizing in life », complains Worou. Like them, many other children complain and blame their parents.
Social problems related to polygamy
Apart from these consequences, the questions of inheritance after the death of a polygamous father are sources of conflicts between his children. The heirs of the departure most of the time start all sort of quarrel which leads most of them to fight, audiences before courts and tribunals and even to physical as well as spiritual crimes. This problem of inheritance becomes a routine in Benin. According to Francine, coming from a polygamous family, « I saw three of my brother died mysteriously because of this problem of inheritance».
We also have to take into account the jealousy between co-wives and even half brothers leading to hate. The co-wives engaged themselves in a serious war. The passage from marabou to witches as the purpose is often with the idea to harm the co-wife. The children are not spared by this war. Between them, it is not the fraternity. Clans are formed in the same family between children coming from the same mother to fight against those from another woman. To all this is added the impartiality and injustice committed by the father in regard to the treatment deserved to wives and children.
All this has a negative impact on the future and the development of children, those who constitute the hope of the nation. The family code in Benin insists on gender equality and therefore opposes the marriage of a man to more than two women. However, given the current trend towards polygamy, the Benin Republic has opted for a law that recognizes children born out of the wedlock in order to reduce consequences and not make many victims.
According to N’Koué Sambiéni socio- anthropologist at university of Parakou, there are some difficulties in the functioning of a polygamy family. But there are also positif aspects especially in work’s administration of charge. If we gaze the conflict within the family and the difficulties of administration where most of the time the father, unable to support the charge of all the wives and children in order to avoid jealousy, runs his responsibility. We can keep in mind that it’s difficult to manage a polygamy family. The sociologist also tackles the case of some women who fund hard the fact to live all their life only with the husband and beg him to take a second wife « As sociologist I can’t say their act is bad », he concluded.
Some men prefer monogamy
Today youth want to live with only one wife and this is possible and even beneficial in all point of views. Based on his experience, Pastor Ousmane Assane advised, « It’s possible for man to live with one wife. I made the experience, since 37 years I’m married with only one wife and I think I will stay monogamous. It’s a volition matter». Polygamy becomes the destructive army which required a good manipulation in order to preserve society.
Polygamy even if it seems to result and reduce the problems of prostitution, bachelorhood and bastard child is not without consequences on the actors’ life. The right and wise decision for people like the Islamologist Issa Mohammed Awali is to choose the regulate polygamy, where equity and justice reign within the family. But in regard to the consequences of this practice in the society breaking up the harmony and peace, the parental and fraternal harmony in family, it will be better to stay with only one wife.
Translation: Maroufatou KAKPO (Stg)