What is polygamy? Meaning and definition behind the custom of having more than one wife or husband


FOR most people till death do us part is a phrase meant for just one person.

But for some, one other half just isn't enough, so here are the answers to your multiple questions about the world of polygamy.

 Polygamy is the practice of having more that one husband or wife at the same timeGetty Images Polygamy is the practice of having more that one husband or wife at the same time

What is polygamy?

Polygamy is the act of marrying multiple spouses, that means having more than one husband or wife at the same time.

The term is the opposite of "monogamy" which his the more common practice of having just one spouse at any given moment.

The practice was once quite widespread across parts of the globe and is still practised by some to this day.

But in most countries, the practice is now illegal or at the very least not officially recognised.

What forms does polygamy take?

There are generally assumed to be three forms of polygamy: polygyny, polyandry and group marriage.

  • Polygyny is what it is known as when a man has multiple wives.
  • Polyandry is when a woman has multiple husbands
  • Group marriage is a bit of a free for all where the family unit consists of a mish-mash of spouses from both sexes

 Polygyny is what the practice is known as when it is a man that has multiple wivesGetty Images Polygyny is what the practice is known as when it is a man that has multiple wives

Is polygamy legal in the UK?

Polygamy is not explicitly a criminal offence in the UK but bigamy is.

Bigamy is the practice of marrying someone whilst still married to another and is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Love rat Daniel Gundry was caught out when his wife saw him on Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway with another woman.

He was jailed for six months on January 10, 2018.

It was stated in a written answer to the House of Commons that: "In Great Britain, polygamy is only recognised as valid in law in circumstances where the marriage ceremony has been performed in a country whose laws permit polygamy and the parties to the marriage were domiciled there at the time.

"In addition, immigration rules have generally prevented the formation of polygamous households in this country since 1988."

The practice is however not recognised by the benefits system.

 Polyandry is what it is called when a woman has multiple husbandsGetty Images Polyandry is what it is called when a woman has multiple husbands

Which cultures practice polygamy?

Polygamy was once a widespread way of structuring a family unit.

References, particularly to men with multiple wives, can be found in the Bible, Torah, Koran, and Rig Veda holy texts.

Despite its presence in the Old Testament, most branches of Christianity do prohibit the taking of more than one wife or husband.

A notable exception to this rule are some adherents to the Church of the Latter Day Saints or Mormons.

Some fundamentalist Mormons continue the practice despite the church ending the practice in 1890.

Islamic doctrine states a man may have a total of four wives but puts restrictions on who those women can be and insists he must be able to provide for them all.

Many Muslim majority countries allow the practice with Kuwait being the only one that imposes no restrictions.

However it is prohibited in the Islamic nations of Turkey, Tunisia, Albania, Kosovo and Central Asian countries.

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