GenderNews

Women want polygamy abolished

By Manas James Okony

Women in polygamous marriages in South Sudan are decrying their poor living conditions as the country’s economy dwindles due to the ongoing civil war.

The women are appealing to the local authorities to abolish polygamy-an act they think has led to inability of most polygamous families properly cater for their families.

In most South Sudanese cultures, it is socially acceptable for one man to marry many wives as long as he can afford paying bride price.  Many consider having many wives and, many children a sign of wealth and social prestige. But sometimes the women are forced in to polygamy due to cultural practices. Many women find themselves into polygamous marriages in some cases with elderly men who only leave the burden of raising children to their wives.

In a country born in 2011 after one of Africa’s longest civil wars and which has remained plagued by armed conflict since December of 2013, some women blame polygamy for the nation’s social troubles.

Several polygamous families in various parts of South Sudan in interviews said polygamy has left children and women vulnerable to social and health problems.

Joyce Bage Elisa a mother of six children in Yambio, Gbudwe State and has four co-wives said she earns a living and pays for her children’s school fees by brewing local alcohol because her husband could not afford to cater for five wives and fifty two children.

“I was forced by my brother and I got married to a polygamous man. The life was too challenging. He (husband) was not managing to give us money for food because we were many. We were cultivating and get food from the garden to eat, he only pays for medication,” she narrated.

Mrs. Joyce also pointed out that children and wives of polygamous marriages do not live in love and harmony because of quarrels and brawls among co-wives, adding that the practice should be abolished since it is unreligious.

Christine Adwai is a grade 7 pupil in Bor, Jonglei State. While Christine agreed that polygamy helps create relationship among the local communities in South Sudan, she advised men to marry one wife to allow them cater for their children’s education especially the girl-child.

On his part, Father Thomas Igga, the Parish Priest of St Theresa Cathedral in Juba said polygamy is ungodly practice. He said the Church will continue preaching on the dangers of the practice in societies.

“In the doctrine of the Church, one man, one woman and polygamous act is unfaithfulness and it is unlawful,” the Parish priest sad.  Polygamy is a challenge but we will continue to orient people that it is bad,” Father Igga added.

But several men in Jonglei State said polygamy is a good practice. They warn against local authorities intervening, saying polygamy is a source of wealth and manpower.

Like other African traditional countries, polygamy is widely practiced in South Sudan. Especially among Nilotic tribes, one man is allowed to marry as many wives as he could so long as he could afford paying bride price.

Parts of the interviews were done by Jovana Naguya in Yambio, Manas James Okony in Jonglei, and Emelda Cheliya Patrick in Juba for the International Women Media Foundation (IWMF).

 

 

 

 

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