Should a woman have more than one husband at the same time? - SA weighs in on polyandry proposal

17 May 2021 - 08:30
By unathi nkanjeni AND Unathi Nkanjeni
South Africans have fiercely debated a proposal to allow a woman to marry more than one man at the same time.
Image: Iakov Filimonov/123rf South Africans have fiercely debated a proposal to allow a woman to marry more than one man at the same time.

The topic of polyandry in SA continues to be a hot debate, splitting opinions on social media.

The home affairs department gazetted a new green paper for the Marriage Act earlier this month. 

One of the proposals in the gazette is the recognition of polyandry. This would allow a woman to marry more than one man at the same time. Only polygyny is recognised in SA, which means men can have more than one wife.

Members of the public have until the end of June to comment.

The proposal sparked fierce debates in parliament and on social media, with MPs and citizens expressing their views.  

During a hybrid plenary sitting of parliament last Tuesday, Al Jama-ah party leader Ganief Hendricks said polyandrous marriages would confuse children. 

“You can imagine when a child is born more DNA tests will be needed to discover who the father is. The problem is only going to get worse,” he said.

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone, who slammed Hendricks for his comments during the session, said his comments were insulting to women and he should be investigated by the parliamentary ethics committee. 

“In this day and age, in the year 2021, to think a public representative of this country would dare stand up in the parliament of SA and say something like that is an absolute disgrace. I want it referred to the ethics committee, and may I say that the only woman in this country who would possibly feel that way is his wife,” she said.

Speaking on eNCA, African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe said there would be a conflict if a woman was “shared” by three men and they all wanted her on the same night. 

“When a man would want to have his wife that night, and the other men also want to have her, what are you going to do? What is she going to do? That might lead to those men confronting each other. Men are jealous,” said Meshoe. 

On Twitter, his party said it would oppose the bill because “no African cultures practice polyandry.

“Will the proposal strengthen or undermine family relations? Will this not cause intra-family violence?” it asked.

“Try being the ‘second’ or ‘third’ husband. Think carefully.”

The president of the SA National Christian Forum, Bishop Marothi Mashashane, said the proposal was “a disgrace and mockery to both our religion and our African cultures”.

“According to the Bible, which we believe in, polyandry is considered sexual immorality, like the marriage between people of the same sex, and we shall by no means bless such a relationship as a marriage.” he said.

TimesLIVE ran a poll recently asking whether polyandry should be legal in SA. A total of 43.67% of voters said it should be while 39.32% believed the proposal was “un-African”.

On social media, scores welcomed the proposal, saying women should have the freedom to do what they want.

Here is a snapshot of some of the reactions: