Polygamy refers to a union of at least three persons. When it comes to marriage, the term monogamy refers to a union between just two individuals.
Polygamy is widespread in Africa, the Middle East, and portions of Southeast Asia, whereas monogamy is the norm in Europe and the United States. Pew Research issued in 2020 says that “just around 2 percent of the world population lives in polygamous homes.”
It’s a hot-button issue, and it’s a hot-button issue for many people. People who advocate polygamy for religious reasons (usually Mormons) generally claim that additional parents in the home create a more stable and enriching environment for their children, especially in the Western world.
While proponents claim that the practice is kind, detractors claim it is harmful since it is based on the erroneous assumption that women are fundamentally less deserving than males.
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Terms and definitions relating to polygamy
Polygamy is a broad word for any marriage involving three or more persons, regardless of gender. polygyny refers to a relationship with more than one spouse.
This is the most prevalent kind of polygamy and the most common legal. Polyandry refers to unions with one woman and at least two husbands.
Group Marriage refers to marriages with several husbands and wives. A polyamorous relationship is one in which all participants are aware and agree to various romantic relationships. Unrelated to marital unions It is the (outdated) belief that humankind’s many races developed from diverse sets of ancestors.
Although this phrase has nothing to do with polygamy, Polygeny is included in this section for clarification.
Views of religion on polygamy
Marital union is not considered sacred in Buddhism; it is seen as a secular event. As a result, each Buddhist nation has a different approach to polygamy. Polygamy was legalized in Thailand in 1955. However, it was forbidden in Myanmar in 2015.
Polygamy is condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and the vast majority of Protestant churches in the Christian world. On the other hand, the Lutheran Church welcomes certain polygamists, while the Anglican Communion determined in 1988 that polygamy was permitted in some situations.
This Christian group is well-known for its unusual attitude toward polygamy. Mormons in Utah’s Salt Lake City ward practiced polygamy, dubbed multiple marriages, for more than a decade between 1847 and 1890. Polygamy was declared illegal in the United States in 1862, primarily due to pressure from the LDS Church.
The church abolished polygamy in 1890 and disputed it in 1904 as it became clear that the practice’s continued support would jeopardize Utah’s bid to become a state.
Among certain tiny Mormon communities that have separated from the LDS Church and the general population, polygamy is still practiced but not recognized by the law.
Polygamy is permitted under Hindu law. However, the rules differ from nation to country. Polygamy was permitted in Hindu tradition if the first wife could not give birth to a son. Polygamy is permitted in Balinese Hinduism. However, marriages are governed by adat or customary norms.
Unlike other major religions, Islam’s holy books imply that polygamy is acceptable in the faith. Surah 4 An-Nisa (Women) states that a man may marry up to four women under certain conditions. Many Muslim nations allow a man to have up to four wives by this Quran.
In other cases, the man and his first wife must also agree on whether or not he intends to be monogamous or polygamous as part of their marriage agreement. If she disallows it, he cannot marry another woman while they are still married.
Polyandry, the practice of a woman having numerous spouses, is still illegal.
Islam’s tolerance of polygamy is shown by the fact that polygamy is most popular in Muslim-majority countries like the Middle East or North/Central Africa.
In contrast, it is outlawed in most other places. Polygamous marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims are permitted in certain nations but not in others.
Abraham, David, and Jacob are among the most well-known Jewish figures who have polygamous/plural marriages in the Torah. Modern Jews, on the other hand, have disputed the practice, much like most current Christians (whose Old Testament mimics the Torah).
Polygamy is legal and widely accepted across the world.
According to the laws of each country, polygamy is either outlawed, accepted, or encouraged. Polygyny is most prevalent in nations that allow or promote the practice.
Where monogamous marriage is the sole legal form of matrimony, de facto polygamy is permitted so long as the practice of adultery is not itself prohibited. There is no legal recognition for extra wives beyond the first in places like these where polygamy is prohibited yet accepted.
All 50 states in the United States and every nation in North and South America prohibit and punish polygamy. A criminal charge of consenting polygamy in Utah was downgraded to the equivalent of a traffic ticket in February 2020 by the state’s House and Senate.
Polygamous marriages are not legal in Europe and Oceania, save in the Solomon Islands. Polygamous marriages are legal in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, but only for Muslims. Polygamy is illegal in Australia.
However, certain indigenous Australian groups have polygamous partnerships. While polygamy is allowed in certain parts of Indonesia, it is not permitted in others. Polygamy has been practiced by the Balinese and Papuans for generations in Balinese Hinduism.
No legal changes were made due to Indonesia’s 2008 protests against polygamy.
Polygamy is forbidden under civil law in several African nations, but it is acceptable under customary law, which recognizes practices that society has long recognized as legitimate.
Liberia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone, for example, can accept and even advocate polygamous weddings because of a legal loophole that results in two forms of marriage: civil marriages and customary or religious marriages.
Polygamous marriages may be recognized in many Muslim nations if the husband notifies his first wife that he plans to add more wives, and she agrees to it before the marriage begins. As long as the husband is married to his first wife, he is not permitted to marry any other woman.
Also See: Countries Where Incest Is Legal 2022
Even in nations where polygamy has been illegal, other countries may still recognize polygamous unions. Sweden recognizes polygamous marriages made outside of Sweden.
On a case-by-case basis, polygamous marriages in other nations are managed in Switzerland. Australia acknowledges foreign polygamous marriages in certain cases, but only if specific conditions are met.
|Afghanistan||Polygyny legal for up to four wives||40754.3880|
|Algeria||Polygyny legal for up to four wives, but increasingly rare||45350.1480|
|Angola||Technically illegal, but still practiced||35027.3430|
|Bahrain||Polygyny legal for up to four wives, but rare.||1783.9830|
|Bangladesh||Legal and recognized, but often heavily taxed||167885.6890|
|Bhutan||Legal (including polyandry via customary law) but not civilly recognized. Increasingly rare||787.9410|
|Botswana||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||2441.1620|
|Brazil||Technically illegal, but decriminalized. Marriage-like união estável ("stable union") ceremonies between three or more people have been performed."||215353.5930|
|Brunei||Legal and recognized||445.4310|
|Burkina Faso||Technically illegal, but still practiced||22102.8380|
|Burundi||Technically illegal, but still practiced||12624.8400|
|Cambodia||Technically illegal, but still practiced||17168.6390|
|Cameroon||Polygyny legal, no limit on number of wives.||27911.5480|
|Central African Republic||Polygyny legal for up to four wives, but increasingly rare. Before marrying first wife, husband must get her permission to marry more wives in the future.||5016.6780|
|Chad||Legal and common, even among Christians||17413.5800|
|Djibouti||Polygyny legal for up to four wives||1016.0970|
|DR Congo||Technically illegal, but still practiced||95240.7920|
|Egypt||Legal and recognized||106156.6920|
|Equatorial Guinea||Technically illegal, but still practiced||1496.6620|
|Eswatini||Legal and recognized. but rare||1184.8170|
|Gabon||Legal in both forms, but only practiced by men. Couples must declare any polygamous intent before first marriage, but men are allowed to change their answer later.||2331.5330|
|Gambia||Polygyny legal for up to four wives; common||2558.4820|
|Ghana||Technically illegal, but still practiced||32395.4500|
|Guinea||Polygyny legal for up to four wives, but before marrying first wife, husband must get her permission to marry more wives in the future.||13865.6910|
|India||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims.||1406631.7760|
|Indonesia||Legal, but rules vary by province||279134.5050|
|Iran||Legal and recognized||86022.8370|
|Iraq||Legal and recognized (except for Kurdistan)||42164.9650|
|Israel||Technically illegal, but still practiced||8922.8920|
|Jordan||Legal and recognized||10300.8690|
|Kazakhstan||Technically illegal, but still practiced||19205.0430|
|Kenya||Polygyny legal for up to four wives||56215.2210|
|Kuwait||Legal and recognized||4380.3260|
|Laos||Technically illegal, but still practiced||7481.0230|
|Lebanon||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims.||6684.8490|
|Lesotho||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||2175.6990|
|Liberia||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||5305.1170|
|Libya||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims. Uncommon.||7040.7450|
|Madagascar||Technically illegal, but still practiced||29178.0770|
|Malawi||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||20180.8390|
|Malaysia||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims. Requires court permission||33181.0720|
|Maldives||Legal and recognized, provided the husband can demonstrate financial ability to support multiple wives||540.9850|
|Mali||Polygyny legal for up to four wives. Before marrying first wife, husband must get her permission to marry more wives in the future. However, some husbands circumvent this with informal "religious" marriages."||21473.7640|
|Mauritania||Polygyny legal for up to four wives, but husband must get his existing wife's/wives' consent before marrying additional wives||4901.9810|
|Mauritius||Technically illegal, but still practiced||1274.7270|
|Morocco||Legal, but husband must be able to support additional wives financially and must have written permission from first wife.||37772.7560|
|Mozambique||Technically illegal, but still practiced||33089.4610|
|Namibia||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||2633.8740|
|Nepal||Technically illegal, but still practiced||30225.5820|
|Niger||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||26083.6600|
|Nigeria||Polygyny legal for up to four wives in Sharia Muslim states only||216746.9340|
|Oman||Legal and recognized||5323.9930|
|Pakistan||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims. Men must prove ability to financially support multiple wives, existing wives can forbid polygamy in marriage contract.||229488.9940|
|Palestine||Polygyny legal up to four wives. First wife can forbid polygamy in marriage contract.||5345.5410|
|Philippines||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims.||112508.9940|
|Qatar||Legal and recognized||2979.9150|
|Republic of the Congo||Polygyny legal, but before marrying first wife, husband must get her permission to marry more wives in the future.||5797.8050|
|Russia||Technically illegal, but tolerated in Muslim regions (for example: Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan).||145805.9470|
|Rwanda||Technically illegal, but still practiced||13600.4640|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Legal and recognized||227.6790|
|Saudi Arabia||Legal and recognized||35844.9090|
|Senegal||Legal and recognized||17653.6710|
|Sierra Leone||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||8306.4360|
|Singapore||Polygyny legal up to four wives, but only for Muslims.||5943.5460|
|Solomon Islands||Legal and recognized||721.1590|
|Somalia||Legal and recognized||16841.7950|
|South Africa||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law [polygyny only]. Court permission required.||60756.1350|
|South Sudan||Legal and recognized||11618.5110|
|Sri Lanka||Legal and recognized, including polyandry||21575.8420|
|Sudan||Legal and recognized||45992.0200|
|Syria||Legal (except for Kurdistan)||19364.8090|
|Tanzania||Legal and recognized||63298.5500|
|Thailand||Technically illegal, but still practiced||70078.2030|
|Timor-Leste||Technically illegal, but still practiced||1369.4290|
|Togo||Legal and recognized||8680.8370|
|Uganda||Legal and recognized||48432.8630|
|United Arab Emirates||Polygyny legal for up to four wives.||10081.7850|
|Yemen||Polygyny legal for up to four wives.||31154.8670|
|Zambia||Recognized under customary law. In some tribes, before marrying first wife, husband must get her permission to marry more wives in the future.||19470.2340|
|Zimbabwe||Illegal under civil law, allowed under customary law||15331.4280|