Debate needed about polygamy


POLYGAMOUS marriages happen in custom-oriented societies in the world.
Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple spouses.
When a man is married to more than one wife at the same time, sociologists call it polygyny.
When a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry.
A marriage including multiple husbands and wives is a group marriage.
The term refers to a man or woman having multiple wives/husbands depending on their local norms.
Papua New Guinea is no exception.
It is an accepted norm where a man can marry more than one wife.
There are no restrictions in the law.
In the West, marriage is strictly monogamous, which means there is only one husband for one wife.
Marrying more than one wife is a crime of bigamy.
There are strict rules regarding marriages in countries such as Australia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
Polygamy is alien to the West.
If someone wants to remarry, that person has to divorce the first wife or husband.
That person cannot remarry if he/she is still married to the first spouse.
This system of divorce and remarriage is known as serial monogamy.
Any child born outside of the family is considered illegitimate.
Property succession laws recognises the legitimate child in the family in an event of the death of the father.
Illegitimate children are excluded and not considered in property distribution.
In PNG, the sons and daughters of the first, second, third, wife are all considered legitimate.
Properties can be willed away depending on the father’s choice.
Polygamous marriage is a part of PNG custom.
It forms part of the underlying laws where the Constitution recognises it as a good practice.
Therefore, the practice of polygamy is allowed.
The Constitutional Law Reform Commission can make a submission to Parliament recommending polygamy as a crime.
The legislature can codify it into a criminal law for that matter and arrest those big shots with more than one wife.
The Government has amended and enacted the marriage laws last year, giving equal rights in property distribution in an event of a divorce.
The wife is entitled 50 per cent of properties/resources owned by the family.
The intent of this law is to discourage divorce and marrying extra wives/husbands.
There are other benefits available such as child maintenance and wife maintenance.
It will be a huge economic burden for the humbug fathers. .
Former Eastern Highlands governor Julie Soso and former Kandep MP Don Polye pushed a motion in Parliament in 2013 for a repeal of the customary practice of polygamy in PNG, claiming most social problems in the family were associated with it.
However, this was not deliberated.
The National Civil Registry office made amendments to the Civil Registration Act to ban the practice of taking multiple wives in 2014.
I would rather recommend the PNG Law Reform Commission and the National Civil Registry office to consult the people nationwide in a public awareness programme to get the views of the people regarding polygamy.
Present recommendations to the legislative counsel for a proper submission to be made through the attorney-general in Parliament for deliberations.
Having considered all problems associated with polygamy and divorce, I stand for monogamy, and therefore, I say polygamy should be outlawed immediately.

James Litai,