The Guardian: Polygamy Is Not a Cultural Conceit–It Is an Affront to Women

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Jerry Henkel | The Associated Press)

From the Guardian Catherine Bennett writes:

What with being illegal in this country, and so strongly favoured elsewhere by the nastier cult leaders, polygamy has not had the best press in recent years. The polygamy survivor’s memoir, usually detailing protracted slavery and abuse, has proliferated almost into a literary genre, although not, it emerges, one influential enough to have deterred British practitioner Mr Azad Chaiwala from a new campaign to “revive” polygamy.

With two new, polygamy-specialist dating agencies, one for Muslims, one not, Chaiwala plans not only to make money but also, he has been explaining in a remarkably effective publicity campaign, to remove the local taboo and spread understanding of the benefits of wife collecting. “What I’m offering,” he told Vicelast week, “is a man with many wives.”

The attractions sound almost limitless. Imagine, if you are a man, not being reliant on one wife for the efficient multiplication of your genes, but on a battalion, young, old, tall, short, chatty, taciturn, good at cooking, great at scrubbing floors, whatever, and without even having to start an extreme religious cult in Utah to reap these benefits. When, as so often happens, one wife starts to get a bit threadbare, or negative, you simply pick another with a bit more joie de vivre – though frugal – to a maximum of four. Although he only has one wife at present, Mr Chaiwala plans a matrimonial extension quite soon – and before you rush to apply, ladies, bear in mind his: “I’m quite picky.”

Moreover, Chaiwala has admitted, the benefits are mixed for women. “There is not a woman on Earth who would be totally comfortable with it. Even the Prophet Muhammad’s wives showed signs of jealousy.” More recently, female endorsements for polygamy remain thin on the ground – from Saudi, fromErdoğan’s Turkey, from Egypt and from Libya, where would-be polygamists no longer need consent from their first wife. Of course this hardening of patriarchal controls, following the Arab Spring, could be seen to confirm Chaiwala’s argument that polygamy is more popular than ever. Though citing gay rights as some sort of precedent for polygamist liberation, he portrays his project as an enlightened, even modish sort of scheme, one that only accidentally aligns with the hopes of religious megalomaniacs and fundamentalists.

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