FOR centuries men in South Africa have been able to take more than one wife.

And women may soon be able to do the same!


Polyandry means that like men, women may have as many spouses as they want. Polyandry, a woman taking more than one husband, may soon be legalised. It seems only fair that what’s legal for men should be legal for other sexes.

A Green Paper published by Home Affairs last week is set to regulate all marriages in the country. The department hosted country-wide ministerial conversations with groups including religious leaders, the Khoisan and gender activists, among others.

Marriage laws in Mzansi are based on Christian traditions and customary marriage, but Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Rastafarian marriages are not recognised.

One of the problems the Green Paper must sort out is the discrimination of same-sex couples. The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act doesn’t make provision for a polygamous marriage with non-citizens.

“Questions were raised about the double standards of religious denominations who support polygamous marriages and not polyandrous ones,” states the document.

“Activists submitted that equality demands that polyandry be legally recognised as a form of marriage.”

Melusi Xulu of Donda Attorneys said traditional healers are likely to oppose polyandry.

“If a man can have more than one spouse, it can be argued a woman should have the right to have more than one husband,” said Xulu.

“We might see bisexual men and women wanting to marry both a woman and a man, while gay men and lesbians may want to get married to more than one spouse of the same sex.”

Most women said the practice will lead to more cases of STIs.

Theresa Mahlangu (53) said: “Nowadays women are in power, but that doesn’t mean they can have many husbands.”

Hellen Sithole (37) said: “Women can challenge men and empower ourselves but not marry more than one husband.

“It’s complicated. I’m raising two girls to be successful women and not for them to marry more husbands.”

Ntombi Shongwe (30) said polyandry and polygamy are both unfair.

“It leads to emotional abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.”

On Facebook, Jasper Mbedzi said: “I’d rather die without a wife than condone such behaviour.”

Yolisa Canda said: “If a man can have two wives, why can’t a woman have two husbands?”

Clifford Nleya said: “This is nonsense. How will the woman know which man fathered her children?”

Cultural expert Mtimande Ngwenya said: “Marriage involves the ancestors. Should a woman in a polyandry marriage give birth, who will be the father and which ancestors will the child be introduced to.

“Our identity is not how we dress but our culture. If we abandon our roots we attract a dark force of conflicts and destruction which will affect the entire country.”