Polygamy is the practice or custom of having more than one wife at the same time.
POLYGAMY IN MALAYSIA
Polygamy is allowed in Malaysia although not widely practiced. The overwhelming majority of unions are monogamous. Under Islamic law, Muslim men can take up four wives but they must be mentally and financially stable, have an in-depth knowledge of Islam and be fair to all wives, Abdullah said. Married Muslims receive identification cards that contain a photograph of themselves and their spouse. Men with four wives get four identification cards, one for each wife.
A new law that went into effect in Kenya this week makes it legal for a man to marry as many women as he wants. And a leading women’s group is applauding it.
President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the polygamy measure into law Tuesday, formally recognizing what has long been a cultural practice in the nation.
Parliament passed the bill in March despite protests from female lawmakers who angrily stormed out of the late-night session at the time.
The bill initially allowed the first wife the right to veto the husband’s choice of additional spouses. Male members of parliament successfully pushed to get that clause dropped.
“Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman whether in a monogamous or polygamous union,” Kenyatta said in a statement. “The Marriage Act 2014 defines various types of marriages including monogamous, polygamous, customary, Christian, Islamic and Hindu marriages.”
No limit on number of wives
The law legalizes polygamous unions, but does not provide an official limit on the number of wives a man can have.
The Federation of Women Lawyers, a powerful women’s rights group, applauded aspects of the bill and criticized others.
Polygamy already is a common fixture among many cultures in Kenya and in some other African countries.
The bill, the group said, is long overdue because polygamous unions were previously not regarded as equal to regular marriages.
“We are happy with the law because finally all marriages are being treated equally,” said Christine Ochieng, executive director of the nation’s Federation of Women Lawyers.
“All marriages will be issued with marriage certificates, including customary marriages. Before this, customary marriages were treated as inferior with no marriage certificates. This opened up suffering for the women because they could not legally prove they were married to a particular man. ”
First wife has no say
However, she said, the first wife should have a say in picking her husband’s co-wives.
“What we are not happy about is that now a man can marry another wife or wives without the consent of the first wife,” she said. “That section of the law is potentially open to abuse because a man can secretly marry other wives because he doesn’t need his wife’s consent to marry.”
But Jane Kimani, a Nairobi resident, said the bill is archaic and has no place in modern society.
“Polygamous marriages should not even be an issue today,” she said. “Kenya is moving backward instead of changing with the times.”
The European Union-funded survey polled 675 women aged between 18 and 55 nationwide.
Okay with polygamy, but not in their own marriage
Wednesday, 16 Oct 2019
KUALA LUMPUR: Although as many as 70% of Muslim women agree with men practising polygamy, only 32% of these women are actually agreeable to allowing it in their own marriage, a survey by Sisters in Islam (SIS) found.
It also discovered that 97% of Muslim women agreed that they must obey their husbands and take care of their children, and that a woman’s obedience defined her as a “good wife”.
The European Union-funded survey, which polled 675 women aged between 18 and 55 nationwide, also found that 21% of women believed that a husband had the right to beat his wife, citing nusyuz (disobedience) as justification.
“A majority of respondents agreed that it would be nusyuz if a wife was to leave the house without her husband’s consent, refuse to move with the husband (54%), refuse to have sexual intercourse (52%), refuse to open the door for the husband (50%), or refuse to answer the husband’s calling (46%).
“Under these circumstances, they believe a husband may beat his wife.
“As a wife, a Muslim woman encounters far greater levels of discrimination than in other roles,” said SIS in its survey titled “Perceptions and Realities: The Public and Personal Rights of Muslim Women in Malaysia” launched yesterday.
Prominent social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir invited policymakers to read the full survey and engage with SIS on some of the issues highlighted in order to achieve policy shifts towards gender equality.
“My only hope is for them to read the report rather than respond to headlines.
“The survey showed the disconnect between what Muslim women expected and what is happening to them in real life as well as their inability to challenge the reality of life to align it with their expectations,” Marina told reporters at the “Islam Unsurrendered: Women Rising Against Extremism” conference at a hotel here yesterday.
She said in a society like Malaysia where obedience to any authority, be it husband or the government, was considered a norm, it took a lot for women to go against the authority, especially when the figure was someone close to them.
“What we have to do is unpack that and show that religion does support a woman’s personal happiness.
“In fact, Islam came at the time when women were extremely oppressed and it lifted that oppression. We seem to have forgotten that,” said Marina.
The survey also found that the pressure for Muslim women to conform started from childhood and that they felt a pervasive need to project an image of a “proper Muslim woman” in their behaviour and dress codes to avoid other people’s negative perceptions.
“A total of 80% of respondents agreed that they faced challenges relating to social conformity and 59% experienced moral policing and body shaming,” said the survey.
Marina said many things that used to be considered as radical or extreme back then in Malaysia had now become the norm in society such as polygamous marriages, wearing the hijab (headscarf) and donning the niqab (face veil) for Muslim women.
“Polygamy used to be hush-hush, something you don’t tout openly but now men do that because they think that this is a sign of their power,” she said.
SIS programme manager Shareena Sheriff said the group was recommending policymakers to require equality in the family to be a recognised concept within the Islamic family law, and that they were ready to engage with any willing lawmakers.
“What we recommend is a relationship that is equal and for egalitarian rights of men and women within the family, something that other Muslim countries have moved to,” she said, citing Morocco and Tunisia as examples.
EU Delegation to Malaysia head Maria Castillo Fernandez said gender equality was at the core of European values and that it was important for women to have agency over their decisions.
“We will continue working to create a space to ensure that all over the world, men and women can achieve equality,” she said in her speech.