Polygamy and inheriting wives or husbands

Polygamy means marrying many (husband, wives. and time). In other words it is a state where one man marries many wives or a woman may husbands or marrying more than once (successive.)

Marrying more than a wife is known as polygamy; while many husbands polyandry or marrying more than once (successive.)

Polygamy is very common in Africa because of the following:-

He who has many wives was the strongest and therefore descendants have the strongest possible manifestations of immortality; he is reborn in a multitude of descendants. "The more we are the bigger I am" is the philosophy.

It raises social status of the family concerned; well respected by society. iii. Polygamy (polygyny) eases of the work force or labour.

In case of problem or need there are always sources to console the other.

In case of death sickness or any absence of one wife there is always one to take up any responsibility.

In case of barrenness of the first wife others will produce and the gap be filled.

It helps to prevent unfaithfulness I prostitution especially on part of the husband it also helps where the husband works for so he carries some of the wives.

It aids to population growth; the more the women the more children etc.

Polygamy brings prestige to the man.

Solves the problem of sexual hunger since one man can serve many.

It disciplines lazy or bad wife.

Security for the family is assured; such a big home is feared.

Gives position to women who are respected because they belong somewhere.

Children also help to come for the family property e.g. looking after cattle.

However there are disadvantages involved in polygamy (polygymy) as seen below:

Constant disputes, quarrels and even fights are common.

There is segregation where some are loved against others and this extent to the children.

Children lack fatherly love.

There is financial stress to support such a family.

There are more cases of unfaithfulness which can lead to STDs.

There is a big problem as for as discipline is concerned among children.

Land shortages.

Perpetuates disunity between family members.

Women always strive for love and this leads to witchcraft and sorcery.  

Today children are no longer sources of security instead, they can sometimes cause more insecurity if not well handled.


Polyandry is a form of marriage in which a woman has more than one husband or mate at the same time. Polyandry has been practiced by many peoples in all parts of the world since ancient times. At present, however, polyandry is prohibited by law in most countries.

Two principal forms of polyandry exist today. Among the Nair people, who inhabit the Malabar Coast of India, a woman may marry several men of equal or superior rank. Known by anthropologists as the "Nair Family," this system also includes a matrilineal social structure in which children are included in the mother's clan and property is inherited in the female line.

Another distinct type of polyandry is practiced in areas of Tibet. In this form, a woman may marry the eldest brother of a family and then take his brothers as mates also.

What kind of environmental conditions? Well, "classical polyandry" in Asia has allowed families in areas of scarce farmable land to hold agricultural estates together. The marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows plots of family-owned land to remain intact and undivided."

In other cultures, it appears that a man may arrange a second husband (again, frequently his brother) for his wife because he knows that, when he must be absent, the second husband will protect his wife -- and thus his interests. And if she gets impregnated while Husband #1 is gone, it will be by someone of whom he has approved in advance. Anthropologists have recorded this kind of situation among certain cultures among the Inuit (the people formerly called Eskimos).

Some of the disadvantages are that a mother suffers in upbringing of children. Children also suffer the problems of mother's family. It is difficult to know the real father in addition to being easy to transmit Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Inheriting the deceased's wife or husband

a)                 Levirate:

This is the custom of inheriting a deceased brother's wife who could be a brother or close relative.

When one inherits the wife and the children he performs all duties of a husband and father.

The children born after the deceased belong to the deceased though at times they are for him (new man).

Sometimes if a son dies before marriage parents arrange to marry for him a wife in absentia absentia so that he is not out off from life. (Mystical link) and the children born can be his inheritance and can pour libation to him.

Levirate marriage was also common among Jews just as it is among Africans.


This is a situation where if a wife dies her sister marries the husband as a replacement. This is also a practice though not common but a number of Africans practice it.

Sororate has similar religious implications as the levirate type. In both levirate and sororate there is the implication of "I am because we are and since we are therefore I am"

This puts emphasis on corporateness that one's death does not relinquish him/ her of his/ her legal existence since the 'we' continues to exist for the ‘I'.

Successive Polygamy

This is where a man/woman marries or maintains one wife/ husband at a time as he continues to separate or divorce one. This is a common practise which people do unknowingly that it is a polygamous state. And has many disadvantages.

The children are often the victims if every woman lives one or more they lack the motherly love.

Such a partner cannot be trusted since he/ she changes women / men as one wishes. The original intention of God for marriage is distorted.


This is the marriage relationship of one man to one partner in a life long relationship. This is the ideal marriage relationship in which proper expression of love can find its proper roots.


  • Less disputes; it is easier to resolve conflicts and reconcile one another.
  • There is unity and no segregation since there is no comparison and therefore even children are united.
  • More faithfulness is expected since there is enough sexual satisfaction.
  • The budget is usually manageable i.e. less financial stress to the head of family.
  • There is no striving for love and therefore sense of ownership is assured.
  • Because of the above cases of witchcraft/ sorcery are rare / unheard of.
  • There is more love expression.
  • Decision making can be easily done.
  • No jealousy is expressed and therefore more peace.
  • In case of death of parentless struggle for inheritance.


  • There is a small labour force. ii. Less population growth
  • In case of childlessness the family continues with frustrations. iv. There is weak defence/ security.
  • In case of simple sex the family lacks the other side and can bring un happiness. vi. Exchange of ideas and consultations is limited.
  • Wrong choices lead to life frustrations.
  • Less income