Polygamy in Traditional Africa

Polygamy was valued and common in African traditional society because of the reasons:

It provided a solution to infertile marriages .The man was encouraged to marry another wife in case the one was infertile.

Polygamy was prestigious Men with more than wife earned respect from the community for their ability to care and make the wives to live in harmony.

Polygamy guaranteed permanency in marriages. Instead of divorcing one wife, the man was encouraged to marry another woman as a way of disciplining her \

Polygamy for the problem of widows. After the death of her husband, the brother of the deceased was allowed to    become husband.

It ensured that was sexual satisfaction on the of men. In the events of

Prolonged illness, menstruation and or immediately birth, men derived their sexual satisfaction from wives. This helped to control behaviour of the man.

To some men, it was through polygamy that children of both sexes were born. They tended to marry another wife in case the first wives were producing only a single sex-

Polygamy provided enough labour force in     family. The many wives and their children eased domestic duties including cooking, collecting firewood       digging.

Polygamy ensured that all women were married. This promoted their cultures as marriage was compulsory tor every grown up.

Polygamy was taken as a way of disciplining intolerable behavior. Therefore, marrying another wife was a way of teaching first wife proper behaviour

Polygamy was a sign of wealth. It showed that the man had enough material wealth including land and animals like cattle, goats and sheep among others.

Polygamy ensured that bond of kinship extended Through It, many people became related. This helped to create harmony in the society.

Polygamy provided security in the family. Many members were able to defend themselves against any threat

Polygamy catered for unforeseen problems like prolonged sickness or death      one wife. The other normal wife could continue with the family business.

Divorce in Traditional Africa

In African traditional society, marriage was affair built on permanent basis. This explains why cases of divorce were rare.

A number of steps were taken to protect marriages this helped to make marriages permanent as people desired.

There was adequate sex education before, during and after marriage ceremony. These prepared children fully for their marital roles and it gave them insights on marriage relationship at tender ages.

There were serious punishments given to any form of sexual misconduct. This created fear and discipline in the sexual conduct of people.

Marriage was a communal affair. Therefore" anyone seeking divorce was required to consult all members involved in the marriage process. Such members provided guidance and couselling in the event marital problems.

Marriage was compulsory in African traditional. This made-the people to aim to keep their marriages well in order to avoid being divorced.

Polygamy was a normal practice in African tradition. Therefore, instead of divorcing wife for any reason, the man was allowed to marry another wife as a way of disciplining the first or the other wife.

There were superstitions, taboos and customs that protected marriage The people feared to break these taboos because they were associated with curses.

Careful choices were made tor marriage partners. Parents were helped their child with choices. This ensured that the best choices were made.

Women were brought up to feel submissive and interior to men, This made the women to respect the men. This helped to rule out the possibility of' quarrelling between the husband and the wife.

The basic needs of the family like food and shelter were catered for by the whole community .The grandparents and other relatives were always there to assist the family in times of need.

Bride wealth legalised marriages and guaranteed its permanency. The people respected bride wealth and some feared to return it in the event of divorce.

Marriage was a religious duty which involved blessings from the ancestors. To maintain good relationship with the ancestors, the people aimed at and did everything possible to make their marriages permanent.

Marriage was a social affair built on permanent basis. Everybody grew up to respect this idea in order to maintain social harmony.

Marriage was purposely for producing children. Once children were produced, the couple's love was cemented.

The elders served as living examples for their children. They lived in their marriages until natural causes like death could interfere. This was a source of inspiration to the children

Circumstances that led to divorce in Traditional Africa

The following were the circumstances under which divorce was allowed in African traditional society.

Barrenness or infertility of the woman led to divorce. To the Africans, children ensured continuity of family life span. Besides they were important in providing wealth, labour and happiness to in the family.

Loss of virginity especially on the side of the girl could later cause divorce. She was disrespected and considered immoral. Quite often the husband could use that excuse to insult his wife and her family.

Prolonged illness like bleeding of the woman could cause divorce, Such a seemed useless as he or she could prove to be costly to keep.

Evil practices including witchcraft and murder caused divorce. Having such a partner threatened to the lives of the family members. Therefore, he or she was allowed to the marriage.

Failure to meet the requirement of bride wealth led to divorce. In some cultures, couples were allowed to live together for a given period before effecting bride wealth.

Laziness could lead to divorce. A lazy partner became a burden to the family in as ffir as feeding was concerned.

Failure to satisfy the sexual urge of a partner could lead to divorce. This was responsible for marital unfaithfulness like adultery with its associated problems like fighting.

Domestic violence like constant beating or fighting could lead to divorce. It caused bodily injuries and some cases death. Before the situation could get out of hand, the two were allowed to part ways especially after all the alternative means solving the disagreement could have failed.

Marital unfaithfulness especially adultery on the side of the woman caused divorce was an act of immorality which was never tolerated.

In some cases, giving birth to a single sex could cause divorce. This was especially true if only girls were being produced

The intolerable behaviour of some wives led to divorce. Such misconduct like quarrelsomeness and drinking among others caused continued fighting

In some cases, if the woman became too old for the man, divorce could be initiated man was then encouraged to marry a younger wife.

Courtship and Marriage in Church History

The Early Centuries of Christianity

·      Monogamy was emphasized as ideal type of marriage (1 Corinthian 7:1-2)

·      Freedom of a choice of marriage partner was emphasized  

·      The rule of inheritance accepted.

·      Christians put emphasis on where the married couples had to stay and live. It there was no fixed marriage ceremony among the Christians.

·      This period witnessed divorce becoming common.

·      However, new standards of faithfulness and love between the husband and wife were

·      Prostitution became common. However, the Christians discouraged it.

o  The couples were encouraged to live permanently and peacefully with one another with love and respect.

o  Polygamy also became common among Christians. However, the church and state came up in the open to condemn it

o  The Christians questioned whether or not they could many pagans.

·      Saint Paul said that what mattered in marriage was love that each partner had for another. Therefore, religion was not to be a separating factor.

·      Christians were also puzzled by whether it was right for them to marry slaves. The churches pointed out that the slaves were free to many each other and live as husband wife.

·      Some believers questioned themselves whether they had to marry or not.

·      Saint Paul advised those who could not control their sexual feelings to marry.

However, Saint Paul said it was also right for a believer to remain single for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Middle Ages and Retolomation

·      During this period, the church divided itself into two. The Eastern Church- the Anglicans and the Western Church (Catholics).

·      The Eastern Church praised and encouraged believers particularly the religious leaders to marry.

·      However, the western church praised celibacy (single life) for the sake the gospel of Jesus.

·      Marriage laws came to be written down in books a p,-t believers were encouraged to follow these laws strictly

·      The Christians also came up with a marriage ceremony to which everybody was expected to observe.

·      Marriage was viewed as a sacrament and something important for salvation of the believers of Wisdom

The Missionaries in African churches C19th-20th)

·      The missionaries emphasized equally between the husband and the wife. They two are created in God's image were therefore the same.

·      The missionaries advised the parents to give freedom to their children to make choices for their partners.

·      The missionaries introduced the idea of a living single life (celibacy) for the gospel of Christ.

·      The missionaries encouraged married couples to love each other and to give respect to one another.

·The missionaries encouraged the couples to stay permanently in their marriages.

· The missionaries discouraged inheritance of widows emphasizing that such women had the right to decide on their own.

·      The missionaries discouraged bride wealth. They looked at it as exchanging women tor marriage.

·      The missionaries encouraged baptism of children instead of initiation of rites like the circumcision of their male children.

·      The missionaries recognized and gave respect to marriage between slaves.


God willed and initiated marriage. He created human beings as male and female with unique sexual feature (Genesis: 1

It was God's will that marriage had to be monogamous. He only created a man and a woman to start up marriage. In Genesis 2:21, God created only a woman from the rib he took from the man.

Equality is emphasized in marriage; the man and the woman are equal. God created human beings both man and woman in his image (Genesis 1 :26).

Sex is a divine gin in marriage for mutual love and comfort. This means that sex is for the married.

Marriage is for pro-creation. God blessed human beings to have many children for their descendants to live an over the earth (Genesis 127).

God gave equal responsibility to man and woman to work as co-creators in order to put the world under their control (Genesis 1

In marriage, the man and the woman are companions. God created the woman from man's rib after having realized that the man was lonely (Genesis 2:18-23).

In marriage, the man and the woman complement one another. Adam felt uneasy with himself and was sorrowful     he realized that       was the only kind. This was after he had finished naming other creatures (Genesis 18-2]).

Marriage is an occasion      joy and harmony. This was proved by the joy Adam felt when God presented the woman to him as his wife (Genesis 2:23).

 God willed unity in marriage     emphasized that a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife (Genesis 2:24)

Courtship was a step towards marriage. Jacob courted Rachel for seven years before marrying her (Genesis 29: I 8-25).

In relation, bride wealth was acknowledged. Jacob offered his services for seven years to family of Laban (Genesis 2918-25)

Faithfulness was encouraged in marriage relationship The Israelites were forbidden 5'0111 committing adultery (Exodus 20: 14). In his marriage relationship, Hosea condemned wife Gomer for her adulterous life (Hosea 2: In: 3: 1 ff).  

Marriage was a covenant among the Israelites, It was meant to be permanent since it involved making promises

Every young man was expected to marry before the age of twenty among the Israelites. !6. A newly married man was relieved of his duty of serving in the military among the Israelites. This was intended to make him stay at home with his wife so that he could make her happy (Deuteronomy 24: 5),

A husband was expected to stand by his wife and give her comfort especially in difficult times. Elkanah assured his wife Hannah of his love when she Was sorrowful about inability to have a child (Samuel l: I ff)

A man was called upon to be happy with his wife and to find joy in her. (Proverbs 5.18- 19)

The Israelites were forbidden from marrying from other nations. Intermarriage was therefore an act of disobedience.

The Israelites were warned against admiring another man's wife. They had to be contented with the wives they had.

A man was encouraged to enjoy life with the woman he loved. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

The Israelites believed that finding a wife was something good. They believed that it reflected the goodness of the Lord to the man.

A man was encouraged to continue loving his wife even in times of disagreement Prophet Hosea continued loving his unfaithful wife Gomer (Hosea 2. 1 ff 3: 1 ff).

New Testament Teaching Of Courtship and Marriage

Jesus looks at marriage as an occasion of joy, In the wedding at Cana, He changed water into wine in order to save the couple from shame. This was after the realization that the wine was over (John 2 J ff).

Jesus encouraged unity in marriage, He emphasized that a man leaves his father mother and is united with his wife. Accordingly) the two become one (Mark 10:7)

Jesus encouraged marriage to be permanent. Accordingly, "no human being then must God has joined together" (Mark J 0 9)

Jesus emphasized that a man who divorces his wife and marries another is adultery against her and so is a woman (Mark 10: 11).

Jesus confirmed monogamy as the ideal type of marriage when he said that a man leaves his parents and he gets united to his wife

Jesus said that looking at a woman with desire to own her makes one guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart.      

Jesus encouraged faithfulness and forgiveness in marriage. He forgave the woman caught in adultery and advised her never to do it again (John 8: 1-1 ] ),

Jesus recognized Celibacy for the sake of the good news and the kingdom of heaven (Mathew: 19: 12)

Saint Paul encouraged every man to have his own wife and every, woman to have her own husband (1 Corinthians 7.2)

Saint Paul encouraged married couples to fulfill their duties. He said that a man should fulfill his duty as a husband and a woman in order to satisfy the needs of the other (1 Corinthians 7:3)

Besides, Paul encouraged total submission.      said that a wife is not a master of her Own body but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body but the wife (I Corinthian 7:4 and Ephesians 5:21-25)

Saint Paul encouraged married couples to abstain from sex in order for them to their time in prayer.

Saint Paul encouraged believers to marry instead of burning with desire. He said "It is better to marry than burn with passion," (1 Corinthians 7:9)

According to Saint Paul, it is normal for a believer to marry a non-believer. What is important is for the two Iive together. He said that such a couple was made acceptable before God by being united (l Corinthians 7: 12)

Saint Paul encouraged a widow remarry any man she wishes but if only that man is a believer. He said this would make her happy (1 Corinthian 7: 39).

Saint Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives .just as "Christ loved Church to the point of living his life. Besides, they should love their wives as they love their own bodies' (Ephesians 5:25-28).   

Saint Peter encouraged couple to show their beauty in the inner self to other, fie said that the inner beauty is 'of greatest value in God's sight. Therefore, he disapproved outside beauty like hair style, jewelry and dresses (1 Peter 3:3 . 4).

Saint Peter advised husbands to live with their wives with proper understanding that they are weaker than them (1 Peter 3:7),

1 9. Besides, Saint Peter encouraged husbands to treat their wives with respect. He emphasized that this would make them together to receive God's gifts and blessings (1 Peter 39)

Licensed under the Developing Nations 2.0

A complete talking Book for Uganda certificate of Education