To poly or not to poly? – Carien du Plessis

2012-04-21 08:47

Some birds do it, honeybees do it, even Rain Queen Modjadji is known to have done it.

Polyandry – when a female has more than one male partner – is rife in the animal kingdom, and also among humans.

It’s practised in Indian culture, among the Amazons, the Masai in Kenya, the Irigwe of Northern Nigeria and others.

But although men in certain cultures in South Africa can have more than one woman, South African law frowns upon women who want to love more than one man.

Polygamy is protected and regulated by the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act because it has a history in this country. This law gives protection to women in polygamous unions, but only men (from the applicable cultures) are allowed to marry more than one partner. Other men, and all women, can’t.

This makes Section 9 in the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing equality between the genders, look somewhat impotent.

Legal experts explain these rules by saying that polyandry can’t be part of customary law because it’s not part of the custom.

But maybe we should build some new customs, seeing the Constitution lays down guidelines for an ideal society.

If men can choose to have multiple partners, this choice should also be given to women, and men in polygamous marriages shouldn’t be outraged if their wives want more than one partner. Sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose.

Take for instance, the time when Zuma’s second wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli, cheated on him with her bodyguard.
There was a furore, yet no such outrage has accompanied Zuma’s cheating ways, which he just writes off as tradition.

Experts of the Zulu culture say Zuma’s use of tradition in this case has been rather flexible – which is fine, because shouldn’t we be able to bend traditions that have outlived their usefulness?

We can use Number One’s cue of openness about his sexual exploits, even at the ripe old age of 70, to renegotiate our beliefs around sex and love.

After all, who said monogamy’s the only way to go? There is nothing in our biology to support an argument in favour of monogamy, although sexually transmitted diseases mean we must be circumspect.

Biologically, neither men nor women have a monopoly on polyamory.

Some might argue that a woman should stick to one man so that the father of her offspring can be sure of his paternity, but condoms and paternity tests have taken care of this.

On the other hand, if a woman sleeps with more than one man to make babies, there can be some competition between the sperm cells, and the fittest will survive and get the egg. Imagine what a strong nation this would build, and it would provide kids with all the male role models they would need in the house.

Some people would say the green-eyed monster?–particularly murderous when visited upon men – rules out multi-partner love. But we should just grow up. In an age where sex can be as innocuous and consequence-free as having a beer with someone, sexually-inspired jealousy has no use.

It can be unlearnt – take it from someone coming from a one-husband, one-wife upbringing, or ask any of Zuma’s wives.

Our living conditions are changing, and our traditions should too.

Imagine having a few mummies and daddies to look after the kids, rather than monogamously struggling to raise the children while negotiating long working days and social schedules.

Or how about having another husband or wife to fall back on for a while if you’ve had a fall-out with the first?

Divorce rates would plummet because, unlike serial monogamists, you wouldn’t be obliged to leave one and divide the furniture in half if you wanted to marry another.

Things would be much more stable for the kids, too.

When it comes to love, let’s be all equal.

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