Even polygamy has its dark side

According to a recent call by someone whose name I fortunately can't remember, traditional leaders should get a few seats in Parliament, so that they can have a bigger say in the affairs of the country.

This sounds okay on paper, and theoretically I would be all for it.

There's only one problem.

No matter how much I respect the principle of traditional leaders taking part in the affairs of government, I cannot stomach the idea of them making actual decisions on my behalf.

I cannot even begin to think of the consequences should traditional leaders be given increasing authority in South Africa.

There's nothing wrong with having five wives, if you can afford it and if you can manage to keep all five wives happy at the same time.

The thing that bothers me about polygamy isn't polygamy itself, which is why I have always defended Jacob Zuma's family arrangements. I mean, Hugh Hefner has lived like that all his life, hasn't he?

What bothers me is this: I suspect that the traditional leaders' stance on polygamy is not based so much on freedom of choice for the individual as it is based on the idea of male superiority over the female sex.

Is there place for gender equality in the type of polygamous relationships propagated by traditional leaders? Or is it a case of the more women you keep, the richer people think you are? Are women seen as a kind of fashion accessory, such as cattle or fields?

And if a man is to be commended for having five wives, what about one woman with five husbands?

Also: if traditional leaders really cared about freedom of choice for the individual, then why on earth do they reject gay marriages?

This is what traditional leaders have to say about gay people (I quote, as accurately as I can, from the source whose name I fortunately cannot remember): "If a man should feel attracted to another man, we would advise him to seek the help of a sangoma or spiritual healer."

Now, it's the right of these revered old men to disagree with homosexuality. I don't quite understand how they defend this point of view at dinner parties, or how they explain it to their gay friends, but there it is out in the open.

They are prejudiced and proud of it. They don't wish to see life any other way. Their minds are perpetually closed to the possibility of cultural diversity as the default mode of modern society as we know it.

As I said, that is a personal choice, and if I respect the right of individual choice, I must also respect them as they have a right to their point of view.

I just hope the inclusion of traditional leaders in Parliament, should that happen, is not going to give them the opportunity to force the rest of us to see the world through their eyes.

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