Papua New Guinea is an island country that borders Indonesia and Australia in the south-western Pacific, where polygamy in the 1800’s served to elevate a man’s status. Collecting women and having many children brought prosperity due to working and expanding pig farming. Due to missionaries, approximately 95% of the population of New Guinea is Christian, yet it has not stopped the prevalence of polygamy.
Human rights activists believe polygamy and domestic violence is increasing in Papua New Guinea.
In a recent article: “The devastating impact of polygamy in Papua New Guinea” polygamy is labeled “a ‘social evil’ as men take ‘fifth, sixth, seventh’ wife,” (Melissa Maykin, Inga Stunzner, Hilda Wayne and Amanda Donigi for Sistas, Let’s Talk, February 23, 2022.)
From the article, common threads in the polygamy tapestry:
- UN says polygamy is destructive and leads to violence against women.
- Polygamy provides extra sex
- Gives rise to human trafficking where women and girls are forced or coerced into marriages.
- Fathers financially struggling to provide for more than one family
- Depression/ “pain in my heart”
- Women tolerate it or fight amongst themselves
- Resentment for a lifetime
- Ban to stop men from marrying multiple women . . . never properly enforced
- More killings (due to polygamy)
- Not much educational awareness
- No one going out strongly against polygamy
- Children are not in school and not being properly cared for
- Women are fighting each other
- Men are not responsible
- When father dies (outside of village setting), children are displaced, with no heritage
- Kidnapping and human trafficking are known consequences of polygamy
- Girls as young as 15 enter into polygamous marriages, sometimes due to economic hardships
- “Big man chief culture” (many wives increase a man’s wealth, fame, and plenty of children are regarded as security for the polygamist.)
“Patriarchy is a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women.” Sylvia Walby, Theorizing Patriarchy
Polygamy in Modern-day PNG – Sistas, Let’s Talk – ABC Radio Australia
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