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Polygamy for all

Discussion in 'Mahusiano, mapenzi, urafiki' started by Ujengelele, Jan 3, 2010.

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    Ujengelele JF-Expert Member

    Jan 3, 2010
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    Polygamy for all

    A Saudi journalist is demanding that women be given the right to four husbands. Maybe she has a point

    They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But it does: the roaring rage of injured male pride. This was amply demonstrated in Egypt when a female Saudi journalist had the audacity to apply logic and consistency to challenge an area of traditional male privilege.
    In an article provocatively entitled "My Four Husbands and I", Nadine al-Bedair quite sensibly posed the logical question: if Muslim men are entitled to marry up to four wives, why can't women, in the spirit of equality between believers, have four husbands?

    "I have long questioned why it is men have a monopoly on this right. No one has been able to explain to me convincingly why it is I'm deprived of the right to polyandry," she complains.
    The outspoken Saudi then goes on to deconstruct and question the traditional justifications for polygamy, including that, in a traditional patriarchal society, it is a shelter for widows, divorcees and women who can't find a spouse; that men have greater sexual appetites than women and get easily bored; that women can't handle more than one man; and that, if women could have multiple husbands, determining paternity would not be possible (an excuse made obsolete by modern science).

    "They tell me that I, as a woman, can't handle more than one man physically. I say that women who cheat on their husbands and the 'sellers of love' [ie prostitutes] do much more," she counters.

    Unsurprisingly, the article's honest tone and irreverence has triggered a furious response from the traditional male establishment. Some Islamic clerics have denounced the article and promised the "blaspheming" author divine retribution, while an Egyptian MP has decided not to wait that long and has already brought a lawsuit against her.

    While few have openly voiced support for al-Bedair's call for this kind of equality in the Islamic marriage stakes, some Islamic authorities have defended her by saying that her true purpose was to highlight how badly some women are treated by their husbands, especially those who take on second or third wives, despite Islam's demand that a man treats all his wives equally.

    For her part, al-Bedair ends her article with a call that society either allows polyandry for women or comes up with a new "map of marriage". One Cairo imam, Sheikh Amr Zaki, believes the way to go is to confine polygamy to the scrapheap of history. "In our world today, polygamy should be unacceptable. There is no need for it and, besides, no man can truly love more than one woman and vice versa," he opined.

    And his view corresponds with that of the Egyptian mainstream. Although Islam permits polygamy, most Egyptians are jealously monogamous, with men who take on more than one wife often mocked or marginalised by the community and the first wife often so full of shame that she requests a divorce. Nevertheless, the question remains: which is fairer and more equitable – monogamy or polygamy for all?

    Even in monogamous societies, informal polygamy (and polyandry) are a reality. In Europe, for instance, though most people, myself included, are serial monogamists, many men and women have multiple partners or lovers simultaneously, and there is a growing tendency to be open about this. However, the law has not kept up.

    "A man can live with two women in Britain perfectly legally, but if he marries them both it's a crime punishable by up to seven years in jail," Brian Whitaker observed on Cif earlier this year. "If a man wants to have more than one wife, or a woman to have more than one husband, and everyone enters into the arrangement openly and voluntarily, what exactly is wrong with that?" he asks.

    Of course, traditional models of polygamy (and polyandry, in a minority of societies) tend to reflect social inequalities, both between genders, generations and classes. And assuming a 50:50 gender divide, polygamy not only means that women in polygamous relationships not only receive a small fraction of a man, but that some unfortunate men lower down the pecking order will get no woman at all.

    But there are perhaps more equitable modern models of polygamy and polyandry emerging in which men and women who are largely social equals enter into complex relationships that go beyond the nuclear family through which they hope better to fulfil their emotional and physical needs.

    Of course, as my wife points out, marriage is becoming, in many ways, obsolete, as fewer and fewer people choose to take that path, and European largely have the freedom to choose the living arrangement that best suits them.

    But to my mind, it's a question of principle. For example, gay people don't need to marry to share a life together, but that should not mean they have no right to.

    In my view, if the institution of marriage is to survive, it should not be so limiting and be made flexible enough to enable people to customise it to their unique needs.
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    Ujengelele JF-Expert Member

    Jan 3, 2010
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    Polyandry call is 'akin to blasphemy'

    Lawyer files complaint over article questioning why polygamy is allowed for men and not women
    • By Duraid Al Baik, Associate Editor
    • Published: 00:00 December 23, 2009
    • Traditionalists argue that Islam forbids women to marry more than one man at once to determine the fatherhood of the child in case the women becomes pregnant. This argument has now collapsed because modern science can identify the father of any child through DNA testing, Nadine Al Bdair says.
    • Image Credit: Supplied
    Dubai: A 790-word opinion article by a female Saudi writer, Nadine Al Bdair, might start a fierce legal and social confrontation between traditionalists and reformists.
    In her weekly article published on December 11 in the Egyptian newspaper Al Masri Al Youm, Nadine cynically urged religious scholars to issue a verdict allowing women to marry four men simultaneously to equate them with men in the Sharia, a move that was considered by many Muslims as blasphemous and a blunt call to wreck the foundations of the religion.
    Her argument was that women could now marry more than one man thanks to scientific developments.
    "Traditionalists argue that Islam forbids women to marry more than one man at once to determine the fatherhood of the child in case the woman becomes pregnant. This argument has now collapsed because modern science can identify the father of any child through DNA testing," she said.
    Nadine, a Dubai-based Saudi journalist, who started her career as an opinion writer in a number of Saudi and Gulf newspapers, has lived in Dubai, Cairo and Washington. She also works as a presenter of a TV show at the Virginia-based Al Hurra TV Arabic Channel. Nadine's weekly programme, Mosawat, that translates into equality, focuses on issues related to women's rights in the Arab world.
    Lawyer Khalid Fouad Hafez, who is also the secretary general of the People Democratic Party in Egypt, filed a complaint against Nadine and Magdi Al Galad, editor-in-chief of Al Masri Al Youm, for his role in publishing the opinion article in the newspaper.
    In a telephone interview, Hafez told Gulf News the literal meaning of the article is blasphemous and includes a call for an immoral act, which, he stressed, is a violation of the Egyptian criminal code.
    He said the case was filed at the public prosecutor office on December 15 under the number of 21663.
    "I am waiting for the decision of the public prosecutor in order to start legal investigations in the case," he said.
    "Regardless of the nationality of the writer and the place of her residency, the prosecutor has to take action against a crime committed in Egypt and has to do whatever is possible to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.
    Hafez believes that Egyptians have every right to secure the society against Nadine's call to ‘legalise adultery' and allow women to marry four husbands at the same time.
    "People who have little knowledge about Islam might be seduced to think that Islam permits polygamy for women based on the advancement of science and DNA test technology according to [Nadine's] call," Hafez said.
    This a crime and unless Nadine repents it in the same newspaper, he said the law must take action to protect the society. Hafez said he has never been against freedom of expression. He said he had volunteered to defend many journalists in the past in court cases.
    Free speech
    "I am known amongst journalists as the ‘lawyer of journalists'. I represented journalists in courts free-of-charge in a number of major cases in the past and won verdicts in their favour. In this particular case which I filed against [Nadine], I would not have reacted this way if Nadine limited her call to expressing her own views without calling for fatwa to alter the religion in accordance with her sexual desires," he said.
    Gulf News contacted Nadine to comment on the complaint filed against her in Egypt and if she was willing to appear in courts to defend her views, but she declined to comment.
    Staff members at Al Hurra TV in Dubai and in Washington, who were reached for a comment on the case refused to give an official statement.
    A senior official from Al Hurra told Gulf News on condition of anonymity that the Nadine issue this time is related to her activities outside Al Hurra and the station has nothing to do with it.
    "We will review the level Al Hurra would support [Nadine] once the legal action starts against her," he said.
    Salwa Al Lubani, a female Jordanian writer based in Cairo, told Gulf News that she believes Nadine has the right to discuss any issue and the society has the right to discuss the points being highlighted.
    "Filing a case against [Nadine] or any other writer is inappropriate and such a move in the 21st century reflects the rise of fanatics in the Muslim world. In the 60s and 70s [of] the past century, writers [had] more freedom of expression than we have nowadays.
    "I read [Nadine's] articles and I have a feeling that she sometimes expressed her views in a confrontational manner that diverts her aim from the main course, but this is not an excuse to refer [Nadine] or any other writer to courts.
    "We have crisis in the Arab and Islamic world and we should work together to resolve them before they hit the nerve of the society which is about to explode."