A proposal in South Africa to permit women to have multiple husbands has led to uproar among the many conservative part of the nation’s society. The inexperienced paper containing the proposal has been ready by the nation’s residence division.
South Africa already has one of the world's most liberal constitutions, allowing same-sex marriages for all and polygamy for men. Gender rights activists have been petitioning the government to legalise polyandrous unions -- women having more than one husband -- in the interest of equality and choice.
The proposal comes in a green paper from South Africa's Department of Home Affairs and has sparked outrage from conservative voices in the Rainbow Nation. Polygamy, the practice of men taking multiple wives, is legal and part of some indigenous traditions.
"South Africa inherited a marriage regime that was based on the Calvinist Christian and Western traditions," the paper notes, adding that the current marriage laws are "not informed by an overarching policy that is based on constitutional values and the understanding of modern society dynamics."
Expressing opposition to polyandry in the strongest terms, TV personality Musa Mseleku, who has four wives, told the BBC, "This will destroy African culture. What about the children of those people? How will they know their identity? The woman cannot now take the role of the man. It's unheard of. Will the man be expected to take her surname?"
In polyandry, the woman often initiates the relationships, and invites the husbands to join her union. Some pay the bride price, others opt to contribute to her livelihood. She has the power to remove a co-husband if she believes he is destabilising her other relationships.
Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, said that polygamy is "an accepted practice," but polyandry is not. He said during an interview that a marriage with multiple husbands cannot work because "men are jealous and possessive".
South Africa has one of the crucial liberal constitutions and permits polygamy.