The UN Commission on Human Rights worked on polygamy on 4 April. This commission, as well as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, believes that polygamous marriages constitute discrimination against women. In their opinion, this matrimonial regime should simply be eradicated.
The UN Commission on Human Rights recommends a ban on polygamy. This practice is illegal in many African countries, but in practice it often persists.
In Uganda, a 65-year-old man claims to be the father of 176 children born to his thirteen wives. This businessman says he is no longer able to raise his children and is asking the government to help him pay the tuition fees of his offspring, some already in university and others in high school. Several examples have been given, including this one to raise public awareness.
If some do not hesitate to justify polygamy by the Muslim religion, it is a misunderstanding of the texts of Islam: “polygamy is not prescribed, that is to say that religion does not oblige people to be polygamous. It encourages monogamy. Polygamy, if it is to be practiced, must be limited to four wives with very strict conditions.”
“Having been under several kingdoms, customary law allowed polygamy. Although the current law and the current family code prohibit it, it will be said that there is still this clash between the law and what culture promotes as we inherited it.”, explains Grâce Mali, a Congolese women’s rights activist, on the persistence of the practice, despite its illegality.
Djali Amal Amadou, a Cameroonian writer and author of “Les Impatientes”, a book about polygamy in the Sahel that won her the Goncourt Prize for High School Students in 2020, discusses the discrimination aspect of the UN commission: “Polygamy, most of the time, is a unilateral decision of the man, that is, it is the man who decides to take another woman without asking the opinion of the first wife, without asking for the agreement. At that point, of course, it’s discrimination. It’s an impediment to his freedom, it’s an impediment to his life choices. That’s clear.”
According to the Pew Research Center, an American think tank based in Washington that researches social life, polygamy is most practised in sub-Saharan Africa. This phenomenon affects about 11% of the population, according to the Pew Research Center.