Polyandry Practice

Mar 13, 2011
by: XLiu

I’m learning more about polyandry right now, and in particular what I’m wondering about is: “What is the purpose of polyandry? How was it allow? Since women usually have lower status in society than men. I was researching this question online, and this news article caught my attention because the title was “Human Polyandry: One Wife, Several Husbands”, but all it mention was animal polyandry, I felt like I’ve been fool. I was surprise that animals also practice polyandry, but my second thought was, it is reasonable.

“In the case of the Tamarin monkeys and other South American monkeys, the female is the boss and the family always contains two faithful husbands. The males of the family don’t “fight” each other either. They have to take care of the offspring, soon after these are born.”

The quote I chose here is basically saying among the Tamarin monkeys, female leads the family. The female monkeys have more than one mate so that she could have more monkeys to watch over her offspring. More monkeys to watch over her offspring= more protection for her offspring, animals are pretty smart afterall. 

As I as looking through articles online I came upon a blog article call “Why are there virtually no polyandrous societies?” the subtitle was really what caught my attention. The subtitle is “What, evolutionarily, is wrong with polyandry?” come to think of it, I also have the same question: what is wrong with polyandry? If men can have a lot of wives in the ancient time, why can’t women? Anyway I found out something really interesting from this article:

“The estimates for cuckoldry (where the man unknowingly raises another man’s genetic child) in monogamous societies range from 13-20% in the United States, 10-14%, and 9-17% in Germany. In other words, as many as one out of every five American father may be unwittingly raising someone else’s child, erroneously believing it to be genetically his”

My first automatic reaction was to laugh at these foolish men. But then I think about it and my second reaction was to pity these men. Not only were they raising someone else’s kids, but they also didn’t have the right to know it wasn’t theirs. They might work as hard as they can to raise their kids and then one day they found out the kids are not theirs’, I wonder how would they react. I can understand why a woman would hide the truth and make another man raise her child, she did that for the future of the child, at least that way the child can be raise in a “family”.

One other article that caught my attention was call “India’s polyandry on the wane”. This is an interview of a woman with 2 husbands that are brothers. It is a common practice in Alana’s village to marry more than one man.  “ Lakhamanda is also culturally significant- it’s one of India’s last bastions of polyandry, a practice in which a woman marries several men” I was really surprise when Alana’s husband was question of his feeling toward their kids( he doesn’t know which one is his), he replied with “ I love the children equally, since they are the children of a single mother, all of them are my children”

The practice where a group of brother shares a wife is call fraternal polyandry. I remember seeing this practice in ancient Chinese movies before. The people who usually share wives were not the Han Chinese, but the Tibetans. Han Chinese was usually the other way around, they man who have higher status can have as many wives as they want. Therefore when I saw that they practice polyandry in India I thought the women India have higher status until I saw this:

“he says his father didn’t want the brothers to marry different women, because he was concerned the family’s five-acre farm would be sub-divided”

This quote indicates that women in fraternal polyandry did not marry brothers because they have higher status, but because they serves as tools. Women in fraternal polyandry serve as tools for the brothers’ family so the brothers won’t divide up properties and break apart from one another.