Debates on the need to legalize polygamy

Legalizing Polygamy

The decision to legalize same-sex marriage in more than fifty states across the United States of America acted as a milestone achievement in the fight for social liberalization. The landmark ruling by the Supreme Court affirmed a right that did not seem applicable about two decades ago(De Boer). The decision favors same-sex marriage across all classes of citizens. It followed a twentieth-century ruling that had rejected bans on interracial marriage; therefore, it catapulted the need to consider all types of marriage as an applicable right. The decision pushes stakeholders to recognize that couples have a right to privacy concerning love, fidelity, devotion, family, and sacrifice. It demonstrates that love, commitment, and family does not ride on gender alone. However, it questions the notion that love and marriage should exist only between two individuals. Because of the legal milestones achieved in the fight for social liberalization, stakeholders have demonstrated a willingness to discuss polygamy as a way to promote egalitarianism and human rights in society.

Debates on the need to legalize polygamy draw extreme views from different social demographics. Some social and relationship pundits argue that the decision to legalize same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court should act as a rejoinder based on the need to consider the legal aspects of polygamy(Friedersdorf). Activists and legal experts argue that legalizing polygamy would add to the achievements of social liberalization groups in fighting for egalitarianism and human rights. However, the debate has not prevented opponents from airing their perspectives. For example, the Chief Justice of the United States of America’s Supreme Court gave a dissenting opinion, arguing that plural marriage does not qualify as a fundamental human right. Like many critics, the Chief Justice failed to point the need to fear the fate of considering plural marriage as a primary right. The legalization of plural marriage should rest on the backdrop of extensive consideration and understanding of all the prevailing aspects.

The contemporary community considers polygamy in the same aspect as same-sex marriage recognized in the past. The modern society views plural marriage as a taboo and an outdated form of the marriage union(Morini). Most people only talk about polygamy as a joke when referring to Utah and Mormons, who banned polygamy about thirteen decades ago. The negative societal perception of the concept of plural marriage discourages the need to have discussions and focus on morally behind avenues of addressing the issue. However, historians and scholars argue that the moral thinking behind the rejection of polygamy by the members of the community fails to meet moral threshold just like the uncomfortable and legally-weak ethical dimensions raised against same-sex marriage in the past. They caution against double standards by the members of the community when they consider related topics—achievements in social liberalization call for the honest participation of stakeholders in plural marriage discourses.

The Concept of Marriage

The definition of the concept of marriage borrows from different entities based on socio-cultural, religious, and personal convictions. The most notable definition of marriage suggests that marriage refers to a formal union and socio-legal declaration between two individuals based on the need to legally, economically, and emotionally unite their lives(Aviram and Leachman 269). The contractual union agreement demonstrates that the couple maintains legal obligations to one another till death do them part or when they resort to separate through a divorce. Marriage also allows the couple to relate based on sexual legitimacy within the union (Haas and Whitton 1244-1246). The traditional society perceived marriage as an essential aspect of the efforts to preserve civilizations and morals. The difference in understanding the concept of marriage across different societies in the world comes from the existence of various types of unions.

Characteristics of Marriage

The formal unions between couples in the community have cross-cutting features. First, marriage serves as a universal social organization (Kuo and Raley 1046-1048). Most communities across the globe engage in marriage at different levels of development. Secondly, most societies consider marriage as a permanent bond between couples. The design of marriage contributes to the fulfillment of social, biological, religious, and psychological objectives. The process of formalizing marriages relies on the taking of oaths that shows a willingness to keep the vows to the end (Allendorf and Thornton 268-269). Thirdly, marriage rides on social approval; thus, the relationship between the couples should demonstrate social approval. The lack of social consent invalidates the union between couples because it lacks the necessary socio-cultural support to show awareness and support of the association.

Fourthly, marriage acts a the spring that contributes to the formation of a family. Families develop from the unions formed between couples as a result of marriage. Family offers facilities for the reproduction and raising of children (Riina and McHale 907-909). However, contemporary marriage allows for same-sex marriage; thus, it leads to the formation of families based on other strategies other than biological procreation. Couples enter marriage unions and resort to forming their families through adoption and surrogacy. Fifthly, the alliance between couples creates a sense of mutual obligations and responsibility (Riina and McHale 913-915). Couples operate from an understanding based on the need to fulfill joint requirements as dictated by the religious and socio-cultural norms and customs.

Sixthly, most societies link marriage with some religious and civil ceremonies. The couples organize marriage ceremonies to guarantee the validity of the union. Civil and religious traditions give the power of existence to the marriage. Contemporary society accepts the validation of a marriage union through court procedures. Tenthly, marriage acts as a socio-cultural and religious strategy to regulate sex relationships (Anitha and Gill 134-137). The formalization of the union binds the couple together based on the dictated customs and laws. It controls promiscuity and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by restricting sexual relationships between couples. Finally, most communities use specific objects and materials to symbolize the formalization of the union between couples. Some of the artifacts include special cloths, ring, a unique sign at the entrance of the couples’ door, and vermilion.


Marriage is a global social institution; hence, it exists at all stages of development in all communities. The types and forms of marriage differ from one society to another, depending on the observed socio-cultural and religious practices(Mondal). It also borrows from the customs and perceptions of different cultures. While marriage is a social contract in some societies, it is a religious sacrament in other communities. Again, several types of marriage can receive classification on various basis. Polygamy exists based on several partners in the union. Polygamy refers to the kind of marriage characterized by the plurality of partners. Polygamy allows either of the partners to marry more than one partner. The man or woman in the union enjoys the freedom to marry more than one man or woman. Some types of polygamy include polygamy, polyandry, and group marriage or endogamy.

Polygamy refers to the type of union formed when a man marries more than one woman at the same time. The husband visits the wives in turn at their separate households. Polygamy enjoyed unrelenting attention in the past(Wilson). Despite the unacceptance from contemporary society, polygamy is gaining ground in different communities across the world—for example, Naga, Gond, and Baiga. Apart from the economic and political factors that encouraged members of the communities to consider polygamy, other factors include man’s taste for variability, obligatory celibacy, increased number of women, and barrenness among women. Social and legal pundits argue that polygamy gives immeasurable power to the menfolk; thus, it contributes to the subjugation of women. Contemporary activists push for the open-minded discourse on the issue to encourage social understanding.

Polyandry refers to the union formed when a woman marries more than one man. The marriage is not common in contemporary communities. Many people frown upon the concept of a woman marrying more than one man(Salem 165-167). It causes a further ripple in the discussions that attempt to consider the issues surrounding the legalization of plural marriage. It also refers to the union in which brothers share one woman. The tribes that practice polyandry include Toda, Nayars, and Khasi. Finally, endogamy or group marriage refers to the type of marriage where a group of men marries a group of women at the same time. The men in the group share every woman in the group and enjoy sexual favors. It contributes to sexual communism observed in communities in Africa and New Guinea. Group marriage threatens the preservation of the family as an ideal of marriage because it can contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Arguments for Polygamy

The morals that guide the formation of unions between a partner and several other partners do not endeavor to interfere with individual and group morals of the society. Individuals get in polygamy as a form of socio-cultural and customary practice. The efforts by governments to control polygamy through laws and policies causes unnecessary interference. The realization that polygamy negatively affects socio-cultural structures should compel the government to exert intervention measures(Heath et al. 201-203). Again, individuals make personal decisions to enter polygamy marriage settings. Attempts of intervention by stakeholders and the government translate to interference in the internal affairs of consenting adults. Attaining eighteen years in most communities across the globe gives individuals the authority to make decisions on socio-cultural and customs issues in their lives. The government only serves the role of guiding behavior to ensure that no one contravenes set standards of conduct.

Polygamy contributes to the main objective of marriage. It facilitates the formation of a more reliable and secure foundation for the protection of all the parties involved. Limiting or prohibiting polygamy would contribute to the denial of the desire to secure one’s future by joining any form of plural marriage(Heath et al. 207-209). Again, polygamy contributes to the reduction in the rising rates of divorce. The success in most plural marriages leads to the questioning of the viability of monogamy based on the increasing rates of divorce. Polygamy allows the partners to enjoy the freedom of alternating from one partner to another without the need for external exploits. Thus, it reduces cases of infidelity and abuse reported by the people in monogamous marriages because of the socio-cultural and religious practices in the community. The fulfillment of personal needs and desires should remain the primary goal of the observation of marriage practice.

The ruling by the United States of America’s Supreme Court on same-sex marriage set the ground for discussing plural marriage. However, socio-cultural and religious prejudice hold most societies hostage to give polygamy a non-biased critical analysis. From the ruling, the government affirmed gay marriage in about fifty states across the United States of America. The decision contradicts the traditional definition of a couple; thus, it sets the stage for an expansive view of marriage. It leaves room for the incorporation of different types of marriage, such as polygamy, based on the argument that love and family surpass the limiting characteristics prescribed by the society(Heath et al. 212-214). Polygamy calls on the support of the government and other stakeholders because it does not limit the primary objectives of marriage. Instead, it contributes to the realization of the socio-cultural and common ideals of marriage.


Arguments against Polygamy

Polygamy contributes to the violation of human rights. Reports show the least respect for the rights of women in societies that practice polygamy. Patriarchal communities that enforce polygamy fail to cultivate the need to respect women as members of the community. The practice leads to the objectification of women because it portrays a competitive component among men who can afford to marry more than one wife; hence, it leads to the view of women as objects of trade(Crookston 269-271). Women in polygamous families suffer abuse and disrespect because the practice denies them the voice to speak about their needs, desires, and dreams. The women in polygamous households act as the home builders without the authority to contribute to the affairs of society. The government and other stakeholders should develop strict regulations to protect women in polygamous families.

Polygamy contributes to the negative challenges affecting most societies. Polygamy in patriarchal communities leads to the mounting of pressure on the men to provide for large households. Lack of adequate land for farming in contemporary society further worsens the situation. The socio-cultural consideration of men as the primary protectors and providers of the family leads to the growth of pressure from the household on the man to fulfill their obligations(Crookston 273-274). Where the man of the house dies prematurely, the family may experience suffering because of the lack of adequate support for daily living. Increasing urbanization leads to a reduction in land space available for socio-economic activities and family sharing. Members of society should understand the current socio-economic issues before committing to polygamy.


Governments and different stakeholders have shown a willingness to engage in the discourses about plural marriage by allowing the passing of legal policies that promote egalitarianism, social liberalization, and the protection of human rights. The discussions have led to a more profound understanding of polygamy based on societal perceptions on the issue. The legalization of same-sex marriage created a platform for direct engagement between stakeholders to consider the legalization of polygamy. The negative aspects of polygamy include the violation of human rights where women fall among most of the victims. It also leads to physical and psychological suffering because of the burden set on the men to provide and protect their families. On the flip side, polygamy contributes to the preservation of the family because the act does not intend to interfere with the moral perspectives of marriage. Discourses on the subject should endeavor to introduce the pros and cons of plural marriage for the consideration of members of society.

Works Cited

Allendorf, Keera, and Arland Thornton. “Caste and Choice: The Influence of Developmental Idealism on Marriage Behavior.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 121, no. 1, 2015, pp. 243-287.

Anitha, Sundari, and Aisha Gill. “Coercion, Consent, and the Forced Marriage Debate in the UK.” Marital Rights, 2017, pp. 133-152.

Aviram, Hadar, and Gwendolyn Leachman. “The Future of Polyamorous Marriage: Lessons from the Marriage Equality Struggle.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2014.

Crookston, Emily M. “Love and (Polygamous) Marriage?” Journal of Moral Philosophy, vol. 12, no. 3, 2015, pp. 267-289.

De Boer, Fredrik. “It’s Time to Legalize Polygamy.” POLITICO Magazine, 26 June 2015, 9 Mar. 2020.

Friedersdorf, Conor. “A Gay Marriage Supporter’s Case Against Polygamous Marriage.” The Atlantic, 9 July 2015, 9 Mar. 2020.

Haas, Stephen M., and Sarah W. Whitton. “The Significance of Living Together and the Importance of Marriage in Same-Sex Couples.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 62, no. 9, 2015, pp. 1241-1263.

Heath, Melanie, et al. “Judging Women’s Sexual Agency: Contemporary Sex Wars in the Legal Terrain of Prostitution and Polygamy.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 42, no. 1, 2016, pp. 199-225.

Kuo, Janet C., and R. K. Raley. “Is It All About Money? Work Characteristics and Women’s and Men’s Marriage Formation in Early Adulthood.” Journal of Family Issues, vol. 37, no. 8, 2014, pp. 1046-1073.

Mondal, Puja. “Marriage: Characteristics and Types of Marriage.” Your Article Library, 10 Dec. 2013, 9 Mar. 2020.

Morini, Marco. “Same-Sex Marriage and Other Moral Taboos: Cultural Acceptances, Change in American Public Opinion and the Evidence from the Opinion Polls.” European Journal of American studies, vol. 11, no. 3, 2017.

Riina, Elizabeth M., and Susan M. McHale. “African American Couples’ Coparenting Satisfaction and Marital Characteristics in the First Two Decades of Marriage.” Journal of Family Issues, vol. 36, no. 7, 2013, pp. 902-923.

Salem, Rania. “Changes in the Institution of Marriage in Egypt from 1998 to 2012.” The Egyptian Labor Market in an Era of Revolution, 2015, pp. 162-181.

Wilson, Peter. “Should Polygamy Be Legalised?” LSE Undergraduate Political Review, 14 Apr. 2018, Accessed 9 Mar. 2020.

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