It was after 10 years of marriage and two children together that Mary 's husband brought home his second wife, without any discussion or warning.The 39 -year-old teacher, Mary (not her real name), had to share her home and husband with a woman almost half her age.Things changed after the new woman moved in. He stopped caring. The school fees, clothes, toys and family outings stopped. But his new family was well taken care of."I went through depression. I had a choice of whether to stay or walk out. I stayed," says Mary.
For many decades, religion kept polygamy out of sight and out of mind in Kenyan marriages. But recently things have started to crumble.Stephen Letoo, a TV journalist and self-proclaimed chairman of polygamists last week posted a photo of himself with two damsels standing on eitherside. The photo was a clear porttrayal of a polygamist enjoying the 'fruits' of his labour, and sparked off a huge debate on social media.
The-31-year-old TV darling says being brought up in a polygamous setup in Maasai land made him see the beauty and peace of marrying more than one wife."Back then, larger families were traditionally seen as a source of pride, wealth and high social status. They were considered to be protective for women in cultures where they cannot own resources like land," said Letoo .
Jacob Zuma has six wives
But despite increasing modernity and awareness of women's rights, polygamy remains an acceptable norm in most African nations and is prevalent across society, from farmers to senior politicians.Former South African President Jacob Zuma who has six wives is one prime example.But the one begging questions in people's minds remains: are men truly polygamous by nature? "Due to their deep-rooted appetite for variety, men always itch to have an extra woman, no matter how good or satisfying the first one is," says Letoo.Adding that: "Ladies it's better for your man to marry that woman he is seeing outside than siring children outside your marraige. As they say, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest."With the prevalence of mipango ya kando relationships where married people are breaking their matrimonial vows left, right and centre, Letoo says it wouldn't be too far-fetched to conclude that polygamy is the solution to infidelity.
"I'm planning to marry my girlfriends this year. Thought I will not disclose the number of girlfriends I have," he says.He however says some of his lovers are aware that he has other girlfriends, and they are quite fine with the arrangement."Some though are not aware. But we will cross the bridge when we get there," says Letoo.
Is polygamy becoming fashionable?
From celebrities like Professor Hamo to the late John De' Mathew, polygamy is slowly becoming fashionable.Almost 1.5 million Kenyans - or 10 per cent of the married population - are in a polygamous marriage, according to data from the Kenya Population and Housing Census.The big question many people are asking themselves today is; when and why did young men start being polygamous considering that it has always been regarded as a thing of the past?Elvis Ringa, 39 who is now married to his two wives says he went for a second wife after the first wife started to nag.Elvis married his first wife when he was 28, and his second wife four years later. According to the father of five , his marriage to his first wife was sheer bliss but took an unexpected twist when their differences became too visible, leading him to seek solace into the arms of another womanwho later became pregnant. Due to this, he was forced to marry her."I never wanted to be polygamous but circumstances forced me. My first wife at the early stages of marriage was such a wonderful wife. Suddenly, she became a drama queen," he remembers.Elvis says he lives with his two wives at their home in Malindi, a situationship that has raised skepticism among his family and friends. He says people believe that no two women sharing a husband can genuinely live happily, more so in the same house, as jealousy and competition is bound to constantly rear its ugly head.Jacob Kambi, 79 , has been in a polygamous marriage for over five decades. He is married to five wives and he says co-wives should not be living under one roof at this age.He points out where the modern polygamous man is getting it all wrong.
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Make it work
"Two key things made polygamy work in our days, unlike these days. A polygamous man had to have wealth to maintain all his wives and their children. "Secondly, there was respect between the husband and his wives and also among the co-wives. This is totally lacking in the current generation," says Kambi.In ancient times, there were no social formalities and restrictions when it came to the number of women a man could have. They could enjoy life footloose and fancy-free; that was until civilisation kicked in and just like that, the party was over.He advises men who wish to marry second wives to do so with the approval of their wives."I advise any man who wants to be polygamous to make sure you have enough money or wealth before entering into marriage. You should be ambitious and self-driven. "Build yourself first before venturing intoa polygamous union. You should be well capable of providing equally for all your wives and the children you sire with them without discriminating or neglecting any one of them, for peace and harmony to prevail," he says.But whether or not peace will prevail is another matter altogether.
Stop killing men out of jealousy and rage
Just last week, a 19-year-old woman in Homa Bay county stabbed her husband to death when she learnt that he was planning to bring in a second wife.Buth other few women say it's better to be in a polygamous marriage, than to kill your partner."Embrace polygamy, stop killing men out of jealousy and rage,'' says Janet Jumwa, 58, who is in a polygamous marriage.Jumwa says women in Kenya must understand that culture and tradition placed responsibility on men to marry more than women, hence, must not allow civilization to erode culture."It is callous for any woman to kill her husband out of jealousy, that man is a son of another woman and his life is also sacred," she says.Jumwa emphasizes that every man is wired to cheat because naturally, no woman can fully satisfy a man."It is hypocritical for women to think that their husbands have no girlfriends, it is impossible for any man to stick with one woman," she says. "Ladies, let's face it. All the good men are already taken, or so it seems," says 25-year-old Cynthia Kamau. "Nowadays, it seems like you can't strike up a conversation with a handsome, charming and financially stable guy anymore without him mentioning that he is already married. It is frustrating!"