By Ezinwanne Onwuka
Few days ago, I heard a lady telling someone, who I suppose is her friend that she can’t marry two husband because she is a woman not a man. Her statement can be interpreted as: as a woman, I can only have one husband. It is only a man that is entitled to have more than one wife.
What led to the remark is what I didn’t know but when I heard that statement I wanted to walk up to them and ask her, “who says you can’t marry two husbands if you so desire?” but I resisted the urge and decided to ‘mind my business’.
Many women share this line of reasoning. And there is an explanation for it: conditioning. From an early age, the girl child is told while taking cooking lessons from the mother, “it is important that you learn how to cook because you will get married someday. And if you cook well for your husband, he will marry another woman who is a better cook”.
Why is it always the case that whenever there is a problem in a marriage, especially the issue of childlessness, the man would be advised to get a second wife? Why doesn’t anyone tell the woman to get a second husband even when it is obvious the problem is from the man instead she will be advised to pray and have faith in God?
Why is cheating excused when a man is concerned with the statement, “he is a man. It is normal for men to cheat” but when a woman is concerned, hell will break loose. “She is shameless”, “She is a prostitute”, “She lacks proper home training” will echo in the streets? Why do men frequently say things like, “how can you allow a mere women to control you and push you around and you still call yourself a man?” Why are men uncomfortable with a woman leader be it a president, governor, etc. instead they would prefer the woman to serve as the vice, deputy or assistant?
Whatever reason that makes a man feel it is right for a man to cheat and wrong for a woman to do likewise; whatever makes a man feel insecure and threatened to have a woman at the helm of affairs is, undoubtedly, what makes him support polygamy and condemn polyandry.
The reason many people (men and women alike) support polygamy and frown at polyandry is not far-fetched: it is the African culture. “My great-great grand father had twelve wives. My great grand father married eight wives.
My grandfather had six and my father married three.” Blah blah blah. Sir/Ma, did you know that in the days of your great-great grand father women were considered as nothing but property? I bet you didn’t and even if you did, you don’t think it matters. This explains the reason a male child was (and to some extent still is) considered of more worth than a female child.
This explains the reason it was (and to some extent still is) believed that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. This also explains why the girl child is given out in marriage at an early age because it is believed that her only mission on earth was/is to make a home.
The Abrahamic religions (Judeo-Christianity and Islam) also stresses this. The Bible and Quran is replete with passages that strengthens the subordination of women to men.
For example, speaking on inheritance, Quran 4:11 says “the male shall have the equal of the portion of two females.” Quran 2:228: “And the men are a degree above them (women)”.
Quran 4:3: “Marry women of your choice. Two or three or four.” To further emphasize this subjugation, Quran 53”27 has is that “those who believe not in the hereafter, name the angels with female names.” Furthermore, An-Nisa 4:34 reads: “men are the caretakers of women…”
The Bible is no different. According to Genesis 3:16: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.”
Following this, the woman lost her rights, her standing – even her identity; and motherhood became a God-inflicted curse degrading her status in the world. In the Judeo-Christian traition, women were considered and treated as second-class citizens, which explains why they were not counted during census or polls. It baffles me how Apostle Paul would preach that everyone is equal before God (Galatians 3:28) but go further to contradict himself by preaching that “it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1Cor 14:35).
His reason? “Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1Tim 2: 13-14). In another passage, he said that man was not created for woman, but woman for man (1Cor 11:9) and because of this, a woman is not supposed to exercise authority over a man (1Tim 2:12).
Tertullian, a theologian followed the footsteps of Apostle Paul when he said, “Each of you women is an Eve. You are the gates of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.”
It is ironic that the Abrahamic religions are against women yet women are the most religious and seek refuge, comfort and consolation in the religions!
Today, the most organized and formidable opponent of women’s social, economic and sexual right remains religion, especially the Abrahamic religions. Little wonder, Richard Dawkins called God a misogynist.
Why can’t a woman marry more than one husband? A man would readily blurt out, “it is not right”. What makes it wrong? Listen to him and he will give reasons that reveal his insecurity and fear of relinquishing power to a woman. Is there a power tussle? No! but since he has been conditioned to think that a woman’s rightful place is under a man, he feels uncomfortable with the idea.
Marriage is to fulfil our need for companionship, why then have we misconstrued it, aided by religion, to mean the exercise of authority by one (the man) over the other (the woman)?
There is no universal law that mandates a man to have only wife. Islam teaches that a man can have as many wives as he wants. Christianity teaches one wife for one man yet many Christians default this. A man who feels that one wife doesn’t satisfy his need for companionship, finds for himself another companion (often times, by having an extra-marital affair). If he still isn’t satisfied, he goes ahead and adds more companions (wives or mistresses, as the case may be).
From the foregoing, if a woman feels that one companion (husband) is not enough for her, there is no law that forbids her from having another companion.