Is polygamy allowed in Hinduism

This article covers one form of polygamy. For further meanings, see polygamy (disambiguation).
Countries with legal polygamy (green)

The polygamy (gr.πολύςpolys “A lot” and γάμοςgamos "Marriage") describes a form of plural marriage and the tolerance of simultaneous marriage-like relationships. Two marriages are called bigamy. Polygamy is the antonym to monogamy.

A distinction is made between polyandry (polyandrywhere a woman has multiple husbands) and polygyny (Polygamyin which a man has several wives) and polygynandry (Group marriage) and other forms of marriage involving several women and several men. Polyandry is particularly widespread in arable crops at a lower level (hacking), while polygyny rather characterizes cultures with a stockbreeding background. What is or was originally decisive is that the sex that provides the main part of the livelihood also dominates the opposite sex in this relationship.

Evolutionary explanations

According to some explanations, the approval of polygamy also means the protection of the man from his own adultery, as psychology has shown that men are more inclined to maintain intimate contacts with several women than, conversely, women with men.

Studies by evolutionary psychologist David C. Schmitt of Bradley University were based on a survey of 16,000 college students from 52 nations. Overall, more than 52 percent of the male participants in the study said that they would like to have more than one sexual partner in the coming months, while only 4.4 percent of the test subjects expressed this intention.
Likewise, the men were more willing to have sexual contact with people they had only known for a short time, while the female respondents wanted to take more time to get to know their partner. The Chicago Sun-Times sums it up in a headline: Researcher Says: Men are born to make out (“Men born to fool around, researcher says”).[1]

Existing polygamy in the regions of the world

Polygamy in the Western European cultural area

Polygamy in Germany

In principle, bigamy, i.e. entering into several marriages, is prohibited in Germany in accordance with Section 1306 of the German Civil Code (see double marriage) and is punishable by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine (see Section 172 of the German Criminal Code). However, it is not a criminal offense for a person to live together with several women or men in a sex community; but you can only have a single state-approved marriage at the same time.

However, the consequences of marital polygamy may be worth protecting if they were lawfully brought about abroad. The Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate decided on March 12, 2004 under file number 10 A 11717/03. OVG that the immigration authority of the city of Ludwigshafen had to grant the second wife of an Iraqi who had lived in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1996 a residence permit, even if she cannot invoke the so-called spouse privilege. It is unreasonable for her that only she would be removed from this community while the other two are allowed to stay (revision is ongoing). Such judgments have been heavily criticized by politicians and some media.

Polygamy in Switzerland

According to the Swiss Criminal Code, polygamy is prohibited. Art. 215 StGB was transferred to the new institute of registered partnership adapted and is now:

"Anyone who enters into a marriage or has a partnership registered even though he is married or lives in a registered partnership, who enters into marriage or has the partnership registered with a person who is married or lives in a registered partnership, faces a prison sentence of up to three Years or a fine. "

- Article 215 of the Criminal Code

Polygamy in the UK

The UK has bigamy laws designed to prevent polygamy. In 1922 a British woman from Sheffield confessed to being married to 61 men. This is the highest number of marriages known to date.

Polygamy in the United States of America

Polygamy is prohibited in the United States. In the past, however, it was mainly practiced by Mormon denominations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounced the practice in 1890, but some retained the practice and subsequently formed special communities. Most US polygamists live in remote rural locations and have been tried repeatedly by prosecutors. Because of the difficult evidence, the public prosecutor's offices invoke financial fraud, because the large polygamous families (e.g. with 29 wives) have sometimes claimed massive amounts of welfare.

Polygamy in Oceania

Among the original population of New Guinea and the surrounding islands, polygamy exists in the form of polygyny (polygamy) as well as polyandry (polyandry). The topic is socially controversial and is also set in connection with the practice of the bride price and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Polygamy in Africa

In the Kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa, polygamy is not uncommon. The current King Mswati III. married his twelfth wife in May 2005. His father, King Sobhuza II, who died in 1982, had ten times as many wives.

The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, elected in May 2009, is South Africa's first polygamous head of state. He has four wives.[2]

Polygamy in world religions

Polygamy in Christianity

All major Christian faiths reject polygamy. It is therefore banned or not common in almost all countries that have been Christian for a long time.

In the Greek cultural area in which Christianity first spread, polygamy, in the sense of several marriages with free and equal women, had practically disappeared for several centuries, even if concubinations with female slaves were widespread. Since the new belief began to spread into new cultures, however, the question of plural marriage played a role again and again. In earlier times this was the case with Normans and other Germanic peoples, who continued to cultivate plural marriage for centuries after their Christianization. More recently it was practiced by the Mormons, but was located on the fringes of Christianity. The traditional polygamous practice of some early biblical patriarchs contradicted the popular Christian theology that preached monogamy.

In Christian reform movements the question of polygamy played a role over and over again through the centuries. During the Reformation, Martin Luther advised Landgrave Philip of Hesse to keep his second marriage, a morganatic marriage, a secret for the sake of public order, although he found nothing unbiblical about it. The "Anabaptists of Münster" (Anabaptists) practiced polygamy, but this practice did not survive the defeat of 1535 in a publicly sanctioned form.[3]

In many countries with a Christian background, polygamy still plays a role today. Examples are the Philippines, various Pacific countries such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji or large parts of Africa. However, polygamists in these countries are usually not organized in special churches or groups. Here polygamy is often seen as a relic of pre-Christian times; different in North America, where there are small polygamous churches and other groups.

The Roman Catholic Church has opposed any legal tolerance of polygamy. The problems associated with polygamy should not be justified in the name of religious freedom, nor should they be belittled because of a “misunderstood multiculturalism”.[4]

Polygamy and the Bible

Nowhere in the Old and New Testaments is polygamy fundamentally condemned. Marriage as a fundamental social institution is even regulated in detail in the Old Testament with regard to the behavior of a husband towards several wives (polyandry was not intended).

In certain cases like the Levirate marriage (Lev 18:16LUT; 20,21 LUT; Dtn 25.5-10LUT) a marriage with the wife of the brother who died childless before is even expressly prescribed, regardless of any further marriages, in order to give the brother of his former wife a successor. This is the subject of the story of Judah and Tamar (Gen 38 LUT). The levirate marriage can be waived if the wife of the deceased brother expressly waives this right to which she is entitled.

The simultaneous marriage of godly men to several women was nothing unusual in the Old Testament for men with sufficient income in addition to the sexual union with servants and other women of lower class. Jacob begat the heads of the later twelve tribes with the two sisterly wives Rachel and Leah and their two servants. However, problems arose at that time when the women did not get along, some of which caused displacement (for example, the servant Hagar at the instigation of Sarah as Abraham's first wife). King David also had several wives at the same time in addition to the maidservants. Solomon took it to extremes with 1,000 wives and lovers, which then also seemed too much for the prophets.

Jesus Christ neither condemned polygamy in a traditional utterance, nor did he approve of it in his arguments with the Pharisees and Sadducees. It was probably not the rule in Jerusalem, or even completely out of use. There is also no mention of polygamy in the letters of the Apostles. It is generally assumed that it did not even appear as a deviation in the early Church.[5]

The early Catholic Church soon adopted the Roman-Hellenistic understanding of a monogamous marital relationship. At least since scholasticism, the Old Testament practice has even been considered objectively contrary to natural law. By divine dispensation, plural marriage was temporarily permitted at that time; however, there is no doubt about the sanctity of Old Testament models like Jacob, who made use of this dispensation.

The Christian Emperor Charlemagne, like various other Germanic-Christian princes of his time, had several wives and concubines. Some reformers, such as Luther and Melanchthon in their assessment of the second marriage of Landgrave Philip of Hesse, considered polygamy, at least for princes, to be biblically legitimate. However, it should be practiced in secret, because other authorities such as the emperor and the lower classes could take offense, which would have harmed the evangelical cause. Some Mormon splinter groups still hold on to the God-permitted marriage between a man and several women at the same time.

Polygamy in Mormonism

The Multiple marriage (English: "Plural marriage") is a type of polygamy practiced by Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Rocky Mountain Saints), and some of his closest confidants. Under Brigham Young, it was increasingly suggested to ordinary members of the Church. In the main Mormon church it was introduced in 1890 de jure and in the following two decades too de facto abolished. It continues to this day in some small fundamentalist Mormon groups in the western United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Polygamy in Islam

In all Muslim-majority countries except Tunisia, Turkey and the countries of the former Soviet Union, polygamy is legal and practiced. The most famous person of polygamy in Islam is certainly the former Saudi king Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, who is believed to have had 3,000 women in his harem, which includes concubines, daughters and slaves in addition to wives. 81 children from 17 different wives are officially recognized. Most often, plural marriage is practiced among Muslims in West Africa as well as in some Arab states. It is less common in other regions dominated by Islam.

There are some basic similarities between all states that allow Islamic polygamy. According to Islamic law, a man can marry up to four women. He has to set up her own household and property for every woman, as well as to give a dowry. The women often do not maintain close contact with one another, but rather live separately in their own apartments or rooms, sometimes in different places. Sometimes legal regulations prohibit those men who cannot set up their own household for every woman from polygamy.

The restriction of plural marriage to four women for all Muslims is based on the Koran, Sura 4: 3:

“And if you fear that you will not be able to do justice to the orphans, take as women what seems good to you, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be able to do them justice, only marry one ... "

The following verses, with which 4: 3 is related, deal with the marriage of orphans. The guardians of orphaned girls, especially at the time the Koran is being written, gain an advantage if the wards want to marry. As their guardians, they could be tempted to marry the entrusted without paying sufficient bridal money by claiming the inheritance for themselves. The Qur'anic verse states in the context that men who fear that they may not be able to treat the entrusted orphans whom they would like to marry, can take other women who are then not orphaned but should be free, the families or guardians have by their side that they can protect. However, another interpretation is also possible: If a man who is responsible for an orphan entrusted to him fears that he will not be able to treat them fairly, he can entrust his wife or wives with the task of looking after the wards.

It should be noted that these are orphans who have neither father nor mother nor other close relatives who could take over the guardianship. At the time the Koran was written, these people had a particularly low social status and no rights that can be reconstructed today unless they were granted by the guardian. The framework for the legal relationship between them is set out in verses 4: 23–24, which allow women to marry a man according to Islamic law according to 4: 3.

Some modern Muslims, however, emphasize that the Koran forbids polygamy.[6] They refer to Sura 4: 129:

"And you cannot do justice between women, however much you may wish."

In connection with the requirement of equal treatment according to 4: 3 and arguments from the closer context, they conclude that plural marriage is only permitted in a few, particularly exceptional situations; an example given is the shortage of men as a result of a war. Basically, however, monogamous marriage is preferable.

Opponents of this position believe, following the traditional understanding that 4: 129 neither forbids nor advises against polygamy, but instructs the man to treat all his wives fairly, even if he will not be able to love them all in the same way or that for them Will feel the same.

In doing so, they rely on the continuation in Sura 4: 129:

“But do not lean completely towards (one) so that you leave the other in the balance, as it were. And if you make amends and fear God, then Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. "

Polygamy in Judaism

Polygamy was allowed in Ashkenazi Judaism until around the year 1000. Afterwards, the influential Rabbi Gerschom ben Yehuda stated in an expert opinion to protect against the predominantly monogamous Christian environment that polygamous marriages could only be concluded with the consent of 100 rabbis, which in practice amounted to a prohibition. It was common in Sephardic and Oriental Judaism well into the 20th century, but today the Sephardi have often moved to western countries such as France and Canada, where polygamy is forbidden, or to Israel, where the polygamy of immigration was recognized The conclusion of new polygamy was forbidden.

Polygamy is not justified or practiced in any known Orthodox stream of Ashkenazi Jews today. The controversial Hasidic “Lubavitcher Rabbi” only justified the theological permissibility, but not the practical one; his followers are consistently monogamous. The same situation prevails with the Orthodox Sephardi, for example the supporters of the Shas movement.

Polygamy in Buddhism

Buddhism has different forms, in the west it adapts to the culture. It's about causing as little suffering as possible. General comments on polygamy are not known.

In the ancient Buddhist Tibetan culture, which lasted until the Chinese occupation, both polygyny - a man married to several women - and polyandry - a woman married to several men - were tolerated. Occasionally this is still practiced today. From the ethical point of view of Buddhism, it is essential that a relationship is entered into voluntarily on all sides. Not infrequently, however, such connections were entered into due to economic necessities.

Polygamy in Hinduism

In Hinduism there are rules that allow and regulate polygamy.

Polygamy in animal husbandry

Polygamy in animal breeding means that male animals usually have a greater reproductive potential than their female counterparts.

See also


  • Philippe Antoine, Jeanne Nanitelamio: Peut-on échapper à la polygamy à Dakar? Paris: CEPED, 1995; ISBN 2-87762-077-8.
  • Alfred Yambangba Sawadogo: La polygamy en question; Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006; ISBN 2-296-01489-5.
  • Philip Leroy Kilbride: Plural Marriage for our Times. A reinvented option? London: Bergin & Garvey, 1994; ISBN 0-89789-315-8.
    (Polygamy among Mormons in the USA, polygamous tendencies in Afro-American society, situation of polygamy in West Africa, ethical evaluation in American society, legalization of polygamy)

Web links

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Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Scott Fornek: Men born to fool around, researcher says (August 2, 2003)
  2. South African President Zuma marries another woman; AFP report in Donaukurier from April 20, 2012, accessed on April 21, 2012
  3. ↑ cf. en: polygamy
  4. ^ Vatican Radio: Italy: Church warns of multiculturalism January 10, 2007
  5. ↑ J. A. Möhler says: "The former [namely: polygamy in Christianity] should nobody want to seriously claim any more." (Collected Writings and Essays, p. 201) It would also hardly be compatible with an early church in which abstinence was so highly valued that Paul even had to stand up for the mere allowance of marriage.
  6. When is Polygamy allowed in Islam?