Essay on Polygyny in Africa

Essay on Polygyny in Africa

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Polygyny in Africa

Whereas numerous African creation myths are supportive of cultural practices such as circumcision, there are very few, if any, creation myths that justify polygyny. There are many proverbs about polygamy. However, proverbs do not have the same weight as myths in explaining why certain things should be the way they are. African creation myths suggest that monogyny was the original practice not only among creator-gods, but also among the original humans. The pursuit of immortality through procreation is noble. Nevertheless, its achievement through polygyny discriminate against women. So, polygyny is a sexist cultural practice that has no genuine religious basis. It is a "post-original" sin as well as a culturally and morally controversial issue. It undermines the original gender equality. Consequently, it should be dismantled through education, commitment to and enforcement of human rights laws.

At all times, humans have recurred to religion, magical and mythical beliefs to explain why certain things are and should be the way they are. So for example, the Dogon and Bambara cosmology explains the practice of circumcision by saying, among other things, that it is a mechanism devised to rid boys and girls of their "native androgyny" or "dual soul,"(1) thereby stabilizing and allowing them to procreate. In other words, "Male circumcision and female excision are necessary to establish the sex of the adult without question" (Taoko, 1975, p. 14). Another religious reason given is the need to pay a blood-debt to Mother-Earth (Griaule, 1965). The Isoko and Urhobo of the Delta State, Nigeria, circumcise women during the advanced stages of their pregnancy because of the legendary belief that, if left uncircumcised, "th...


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Kant, Immanuel, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. Louis Beck, Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1959.

Kilbride, Philip L., Plural Marriage for Our Times: A Reinvented Option? Westport, Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey, 1994.

Mbiti, John, African Religions and Philosophy. Second Edition. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann, 1989.

Mill, John Stuart & Taylor, Harriet, The Subjection of Women (1869).

Schipper, Mineke, Source of All Evil: African Proverbs and Sayings on Women. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1991.

Senghor, L. S., Hosties Noires. Paris: Seuil, 1948.

Taoko, J. G., "L’Excision: Base de la Stabilite Familiale ou Rite Cruel Famille et Developpement," 2, Dakar, Senegal, Spring 1975.

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