Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Should black women really learn to share their men?

Published:Wednesday | July 13, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Bridegroom, Milton Mbhele, with his four brides, from left, Happiness, Thobile, Simangele, and Zanele, at their western wedding in Weenen, near Ladysmith, South Africa, Saturday, September 26, 2009. South African law recognises traditional polygamous marriages, even President Jacob Zuma has three wives. Yet while polygamy remains common among several tribes, including the Zulus and Swazis, simultaneous weddings are rare. - AP

With a shortage of eligible black men, is it time that sistas start to embrace polygamy?

Merissa Richards, Voice Writer

IF THE figures are to be believed, there could be as many as seven black women for every eligible black man when you consider the number who are already married, dating women of other races, are gay, or in prison.

Some of us black women are already missing out. Statistics for the United Kingdom (UK) state that 48 per cent of black Caribbean families and 36 per cent of black African families are headed by a lone parent, usually a woman.

And there are commentators who have argued that increasing numbers of highly educated professional black women could be facing the same fate as their counterparts in the US, where figures released in April showed as many as 42 per cent of African-American women have never married, double the number for white women.

It's a bleak view that inspires heated discussion, whether in the living room, at the hairstylist, or in online forums.

"I find that positive and intelligent black men and black women in the UK are more likely to find themselves single due to the fact that it is quite difficult for them to find someone on the same level as themselves," online reader Veronica wrote in a Voice blog about why so many people are single.

Online reader, Lady J, puts forward other reasons: "There is a very small percentage of our black males that are confident in themselves, and willing to accept working with someone they love and communicate with. That percentage is married with a tiny number still available," she wrote. "The rest are fools in the sense of poor choices: many baby-mothers they can't communicate and work with; having lots of girlfriends and dates and one-nighters; they don't really know what they want; choosing a woman just for looks ... , then seeking solace with a sensible woman they don't know how to treat well. The list goes on and on."

Already struggling to find black partners who they find suitable, sistas across the world now have to battle each other - alongside women of other races - to find a man to make it down the aisle with.

But are black women just making things unnecessarily hard for themselves?

With the shortage of eligible black men, should black women just learn to happily share the men they have?

Some deejays and rappers think so. From Beenie Man singing that Man fi have nuff gal to Shabba Ranks wishing for his Trailer Load A Girls to Jay-Z singing I love girls, girls, girls, having an abundance of women seems to be a dream many men wish for.

Some women are already indulging them, as seen from the plethora of married and partnered men who, as Lady J pointed out, are already practising a distortion of polygamy - otherwise known as cheating by having two or more women.

This has been justified for any number of reasons, ranging from slavery conditioning to men being unable to practise monogamy and just be with one woman.

There are many negative stereotypes associated with women who are willing to share someone else's man. The battle can get ugly, with the 'main woman', wife or wifey - and many of her girlfriends - bitterly lashing the sharer or the 'other woman' as a scarlet woman, concubine, bit-on-the-side, man t'ief, husband stealer and matey.

However, could this be about to change owing to the scarcity of eligible black men in the UK?

Some advocates say there is a better way to handle such situations, where men can legally have more than one wife - polygamy.

"I think it's a good idea and I would definitely agree that black women should accept polygamy as long as there is perfect harmony and no favouritism," said Baby Father author, Patrick Augustus, who works with children's charity Barnardo's Baby Father Initiative to promote positive black fatherhood.

"This could certainly work in the UK because it would reduce the need for people to lie or hide and they could be up-front. A lot of people lie, and that applies to everybody, when they are having extra-marital affairs.

"It could be useful because there are a lot of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. men and they know that they have a woman, but they have to leave before 5 a.m. in the morning before their children wake up. They could be up-front instead of lying."

Although polygamy is illegal in the UK, it remains acceptable in several cultures. Muslims in the UK have gone as far as to challenge the law, which forbids husbands from having more than one wife.

"I spend a lot of time in Gambia in which, like a lot of Muslim countries I've travelled to, a man can have four wives," Augustus added. "In Gambia, women go to men and ask if they can be a man's second wife and the women work together. It's good where it's necessary; I have a friend with more than one wife and they help one another."

Some women who are already sharing men would like to see the sharing become more formalised - as outlined by one woman who took part in a recent debate in Jamaica about whether polygamy should be introduced.

"I have been in a relationship with a married man for 15 years, so I am already playing the role of a wife," said Sharon, 43. "I don't mind sharing him because there are not that many good men out there. I met him the same year he got married, so it's like he married both of us. I have a child for him too, just like her. The only problem is that she does not know. But if it was acceptable, I would want us to live together as a family."

Other women are sounding a warning that if men intend to regularly have many wives, women too will want the option to have more than one husband, called polyandry.

"If a man can have more than one woman, why can't I have more than one man? I think things should be fair," Keisha Thompson, 26, from south London told The Voice.

But many women object to polygamy and said they just want to have one man for themselves, a view echoed in the late-'90s chart hit The Boy Is Mine by Brandy & Monica.

Danielle Johnson, 29, from north-west London, is typical of this view. She said: "I'm not sharing my husband with no other woman. A relationship is not meant for no more than two partners.

"I love my husband and couldn't bear the thought of him having a relationship with anyone other than me. Polygamy shows a lack of self -control and contributes to heartbreak and stress."

There are also men who dismiss the idea of having more than one wife as a headache.

"I think most who are clamouring for it have no sense of the financial and physical toll it will take," said Christopher, 50, from London. "They have not thought it through. They are just looking at the sexual component."

Church leaders have also stamped on the idea of polygamy or polyandry, stating that having one partner is the way Jesus intended people to live.

"The type of family God designed was a nuclear family," said Rev Hugh Elliston, general superintendent of the Open Bible Standard Churches of Jamaica. "However, many of God's plans were corrupted after the fall of man in Genesis, which led to the breakdown and some of the practices that unfolded in the Old Testament,"

Pastor Charles Francis,. of the Faith United Church of God International. said single women need to put their trust in God and wait for the right man, adding that polygamy is "not a principle God was commanding men to do".