Half of a man is better than none at all! Russians, Malaysians, and South Africans agree

Big Love

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And a half-warm bed is better than an altogether cold one!

I’m stealing the headline from this Guardian article, that due to a clear shortage of available men in rural areas, the good women of Siberia (and some part of Mongolia) are now advocating polygamy on their men’s behalf.  Say what you may, but when the day comes, no principles or gender progressiveness can stand in the way of, demography!

The Russian population is falling by 3% a year – and there are 9 million fewer men than women. Nationalists, such as the eccentric leader of the Liberal Democratic party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, claim that introducing polygamy will provide husbands for “10 million lonely women” and fill Mother Russia’s cradles.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Humphrey’s investigations have uncovered women who believe that “half a good man is better than none at all”. “There are still some men around – they might be running things, with a job as an official, for example, or they might be doing an ordinary labouring job, but either way, there aren’t very many of them,” she says. “Women say that the legalisation of polygamy would be a godsend: it would give them rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”

And it’s not just the rural demographics forcing women into polygamy.

In Malaysia, well-educated and urban women are proudly continuing this prehistoric practice.  And unlike Big Love, the man in the centre of all this doesn’t have to hide it, nor be straitjacketed by the ideas of progressiveness or modernity.  And the women are resigned to the fact, and very practical.

“Men are by nature polygamous,” said Dr. Rohaya, Mr. Ikram’s third wife, flanked by the other three women and Mr. Ikram for an interview on a recent morning. The women were dressed in ankle-length skirts, their hair covered by tudungs, the Malaysian term for headscarf. “We hear of many men having the ‘other woman,’ affairs and prostitution because for men, one woman is not enough. Polygamy is a way to overcome social ills such as this.”

As for the households, it sounds just like some kind of sisterhood of travelling pants social club, complete with baby-sitting co-op and soup kitchen!

The wives usually meet Mr. Ikram at the family house but they say there is no strict arrangement, and Mr. Ikram sometimes comes to their individual homes during the week.

On weekends, at the family house, the women take turns doing the cooking.

“We share clothes,” Dr. Rohaya said. “We’re like sisters, really.”

Last but not least, rounding off an excellent week in the world of polygamy, South African President Jacob Zuma has married for the fifth time.  He has one ex-wife, and another has committed suicide, making the latest bride the country’s third first lady.

There’s also another fiancée in waiting, and more rumoured betrothals.

His actions and views on gender issues in general, and rape in particular, can be best described as cringe-worthy.

Zuma was acquitted in 2006 on charges of raping a family friend, but his comments during testimony disturbed many South Africans — including one remark that he knew his accuser wanted sex because she was wearing a short skirt.

One spouse, Kate Mantsho Zuma, committed suicide in 2000, leaving a note that life with her husband was “hell.”

So six decades after the Feminine Mystique, this is where we are.

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