Polygamy is not the answer, it’s an affront to women

Last night I went to bed a very furious person. This was after I watched a clip where the woman representative of Kiambu County did what I consider unthinkable coming from a female leader. Not that I am completely surprised by her utterances.

I speak for others

However, I was embarrassed at her lack of analysis and basic understanding of simple concepts such as patriarchy. Since I live in Kiambu (the county that she supposedly represents) I feel entitled to challenge her line of thought which is bound to perpetrate an injustice against millions of women and children.

Before I go any further, I reckon a lesson on what patriarchy is that would perhaps forestall a similar embarrassing situation in future. Wikipedia defines Patriarchy as “a system in which the male gender holds primary power and privilege in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of resources. In a family situation, fathers or father figures hold power over women and children”.

Therefore in a marriage arrangement where a man has more than one wife, it means they and their children are subject to the man regardless of whether he is playing his role or not.

In my understanding, patriarchy is nurtured and sustained through retrogressive cultural attitudes and practices, religion, societal permissiveness and careless talks that normalise injustices. Of what use is a man with five wives and 50 children whose names he cannot even remember because he has no relationship with them? What value does that add to any child or woman?

With all due respect to Gathoni, I honestly believe that she lacks the capacity to comprehend the issues that she is now trivialising by suggesting that people who put her in office should resort to creating chaos in their own communities just so that they can fit the definition of what she deems appropriate.

The heart of the matter

The problem she is purporting to solve by encouraging people to embrace polygamy exists because in the first place, people lack a sense of responsibility. People will go around siring children they cannot take care of because they are not held to account for their mistakes. Children are being raised in broken families because the society has allowed it.

If taking care of a nuclear family is proving too difficult for so many people, how does she suggest that the same people take care of multiple families? If a man can sire children with two or three women and abandon them, what makes you think they will be more responsible when forced to take in more than one wife?

Further, it is short sighted to believe that children can only grow up and excel if they are raised in a marriage? It is very assumptive to believe that women like sharing their husbands/partners? And who also lied to her that marriage is the ultimate goal for everyone?

There are so many women who are working tirelessly to raise children on their own and they are doing a pretty good job. In my view, if men are allowed to practice polygyny which is a subset of polygamy and which I believe is what she is advocating for, women should also be free to practice polyandry.

That way, everyone has a choice and can work with what suits them best. Anything short of this will be advocating for further subjugation of women and the very children she claims to be concerned about.

More patriarchal women

Gathoni needs to take time to reflect on the role that she was elected to play and seek to understand the root cause of issues facing families before she can purport to tell us what to do. Importantly, she needs to respect the women who after being abandoned and disappointed by their partners are trying so hard to raise their children in a respectable manner.

By her very own utterances, she is suggesting that women should further demean themselves seeking to be taken in as second, third and fifth wives so as to fit in the society. This is one of the reasons why single mothers and their children are so stigmatized in our societies. Any leader who perpetuates this stigma should be ashamed.

To my fellow voters, this should serve as a lesson. Next time, we should vote quality representatives. It is not enough for one to be female to understand issues affecting women. As we can all see, we do have female leaders who are more patriarchal than patriarchy itself.

Ms Gathumbi is a Programme Manager, Women’s Empowerment, Hivos East Africa.

The Standard
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