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The Pros and Cons of Polygamy in African Culture: A Nursing Student’s Perspective

The Pros and Cons of Polygamy in African Culture: A Nursing Student’s Perspective

The Pros and Cons of Polygamy in African Culture: A Nursing Student’s Perspective

Veronica Grimes

Clayton State University

Dr. Jessica Conrad

English 1102

July 9, 2023



The Pros and Cons of Polygamy in African Culture: A Nursing Student’s Perspective


Having multiple wives simultaneously, known as polygamy, has been a tradition in

various regions worldwide, including Africa. To explore the pros and cons of polygamy within

the African cultural context is my objective as a nursing student. This paper discusses the social,

cultural, and health implications of polygamy. It examines the possible advantages as well as the

difficulties it poses. Using scholarly research and considering multiple perspectives, this essay

seeks to offer a detailed understanding of the topic. It strives to cultivate critical thinking on how

one’s social standing and marriage arrangements may influence nursing care. This is because

patients coming from polygamous families may have social care structures, attitudes and beliefs

slightly different from others. This necessitates specialized care.

Historical and Cultural Context

To fully grasp the positives and negatives of polygamy in African culture, it is essential

to acknowledge the historical and cultural roots that have formed this custom. Many African

societies have traditionally upheld polygamy. Culturally, polygamy is understood to have

provided all parties, especially the husband, with life-long companionship. In addition, some

African cultures allowed a man to marry an additional wife if the current marriage had issues

with child-bearing. Most polygamous marriages were built on mutual love and respect among all

participants. For instance, most of these marriages had a hierarchy among the wives, with the

first wife married at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the other wives in order of marriage

date or age. Additionally, the strongest polygamous marriages acknowledged that all wives loved

the husband equally, and the husband loved his wives equally as well. The husband shared his


Your intent and scope are clearly stated. However, your thesis statement is not yet adequately stance-driven. What do you want to argue? What do you want to persuade your audience of? As it’s currently stated, the intent of the paper feels more exploratory rather than argumentative.
This is/was the intent at least, yes? Not always the reality? Just like in love-based monogamous marriage, the ideal is not always the reality. It’s worth clarifying that these ideals formed the basis of the practice even if the reality may have varied on a case-by-case basis.


time with all the wives and children. Similarly, resources such as food and clothing were

distributed among each wife in correspondence to the number of children from each wife.

Traditionally, each wife had a ‘house’ where they and their children stayed, and all other houses

surrounded the main house which was usually the biggest and was home to the first wife.

Polygamy was and remains to be impacted by religion, economic conditions, and gender

dynamics. Islamic traditions in Nigeria, for instance, lay the foundation for polygamy. Past

Nigerian Muslims often connected polygamy to economic and social stability (Njoh, 2016).

Considering the cultural context is essential for a deeper appreciation of the customs and

significance of polygamous unions within African communities.

Pros of Polygamy in African Culture

Certain advantages have been associated with polygamy in African culture. Sharing

resources among multiple wives and their children in polygamous marriages can contribute to

economic stability and support (Damtie et al., 2021). The family unit benefits from labor division

and increased social support offered by this system. The household’s economic productivity can

be enhanced by having multiple spouses. The wives are capable of contributing to different

activities that generate income. For nurses, this might mean that patients coming from

polygamous marriages are more likely to afford treatment because of the greater presence of

economic support than other patients. The additional income generated from a polygamous set-

up may be used to settle medical bills. Additionally, polygamy has the possibility to increase

fertility rates and reproduction, which can contribute to the growth of population and lineage

continuation (Chae & Agadjanian, 2022). In societies that prioritize high fertility rates, polygamy

can be regarded as a way to meet this cultural expectation. Thus, it could be seen as an

alternative avenue of solving fertility concerns within a marriage, provided that all parties


Go through the essay and convert the APA-style in-text citations to MLA.


involved agree to the solution. For instance, if one wife has conditions that would affect the

pregnancy, eg cervical incontinence, the other wife could volunteer as a surrogate. Theoretically,

the marriage could also have children among the healthy mothers without surrogacy, but with all

children from that marriage enjoying equal love and care from all their step-mothers in a form of

communal child-raising. This relieves the patient’s psychological pressure associated with lack

of companionship that children give. Lastly, Harel & Kook (2021) pose that in certain African

cultures, keeping multiple wives is regarded as a representation of affluence and social standing.

This bestows prestige on the husband and his family. The ability to support multiple wives is

often admired in these contexts and demonstrates the husband’s financial capability. For some

patients occupying the role of the husband, it is necessary that nurses appreciate this high social

standing when dealing with them, as doing so makes the patient feel deeply respected and


Cons of Polygamy in African Culture

Polygamy in African culture has various challenges despite its potential benefits.

Polygamous marriages face significant concerns related to gender inequality and power

dynamics (Whitehouse, 2023). Polygamy frequently strengthens patriarchal ideals and puts

women in subordinate roles, limiting their ability to make decisions and exert agency. Nurses

could put such factors into consideration by educating patients in such marriages on the

importance of gender equality. Similarly, they could talk to the patient’s marriage partners such

as the first wife or the husband to allow the patient to make a personal decision regarding patient


Another issue with polygamy is the possibility that he first wife may feel competitive and

jealous when more wives are added to the marriage. Njoh (2016) explains how mistreatment,


Use qualifying phrases such as “often,” “possibly,” and “potentially” to indicate that these statements are not absolutes. This will help protect your statements from the reasonable objection that there are exceptions.
Which may also impact the decision-making process of mothers in polygamous marriages. This may be something for nurses to take into consideration when treating children as well as wives and mothers in polygamous families.


neglect, and psychological distress may arise for women in polygamous marriages because of

this. Recent studies have demonstrated that women in polygamous unions could face elevated

rates of depressive symptoms, anxiety, and low self-esteem when compared to their

monogamous counterparts. Nurses must be more attentive to these conditions when dealing with

patients in polygamous marriages, because the nature of their marriage becomes something of a

risk factor for mental health conditions. Additionally, patients with ill mental health linked to

polygamy should receive appropriate social support.

One more crucial point to think about is the heightened likelihood of contracting sexually

transmitted infections (STIs) and the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS within polygamous

relationships. According to Damtie et al. (2021), having multiple sexual partners increases the

chances of getting infections, particularly when safe sex practices are not consistently followed.

Limited access to healthcare resources and information additionally worsens these health

concerns. Challenges may arise for women in polygamous marriages as they try to negotiate safe

sex practices and access suitable healthcare, primarily due to social and cultural barriers. Thus,

nurses must realize that they at higher risk of catching these infections than others, and provide

appropriate care such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Additionally, managing STIs in polygamous

marriages will require providing care to all members of that marriage. This is because diseases

are most likely to spread within a subset of polygamous partners due to their frequent sexual


Children growing up in households that practice polygamy may also encounter

psychological challenges. Siblings may experience feelings of neglect, favoritism, and rivalry

when there are multiple wives and half-siblings present (Chae & Agadjanian, 2022). Children

might face challenges regarding identity, belonging, and the allocation of resources and attention


Is it considered taboo to discuss STIs or a socially sensitive subject in polygamous African cultures? This may be something for nurses to take into consideration as well as it may impact the way they broach these conversations with patients.


within the family. Their mental health and overall growth can be profoundly impacted by these

experiences. As said earlier, nurses could care for these children by paying attention to their

mental well-being, and talking to their caregivers on how polygamy affects the child.

Ethical Considerations and Legal Implications

The ethical dimensions of polygamy in African culture demand careful examination.

Cultural diversity should be respected. Ensuring the protection of individual rights is equally as

vital as promoting gender equality and consent. The agency and autonomy of women in these

unions are questioned by the practice of polygamy. Women may often enter polygamous

marriages because of social and economic pressures rather than genuine choice (Harel & Kook,

2021). Power dynamics within polygamous unions can lead to exploitation and unfair treatment

of women, which undermines their rights and well-being. Nurses must be on the lookout for

signs of inequality and pressure, and provide assistance where they can without interfering with

the marriage.

African countries have varying legal frameworks surrounding polygamy. Some countries

allow and regulate the practice while others have outright bans on the practice. Important

questions about human rights arise from the legal status of polygamy. Harel & Kook (2021)

explain how the probability of exploitation within such unions. Considering the impact on gender

equality, women’s rights, and the well-being of individuals and families involved is crucial for

nurses and other care providers when dealing with patients in polygamous family structures.


In African culture, polygamy is a complicated subject with benefits and drawbacks.

Recognizing polygamy’s historical and cultural significance is essential. Addressing the social


This sounds like it’s your main argument! How can you weave this stance throughout the paper?
Out of curiosity, what might such assistance look like? Also, what are the differing legal obligations in the American medical system versus in specific African countries?


inequalities, health risks, and ethical concerns associated with this practice is equally crucial. As

nursing professionals, it is essential to tackle this matter with sensitivity, ensuring that culturally

competent care is offered and that interventions promote the health and well-being of individuals

and families in polygamous unions.


Chae, S., & Agadjanian, V. (2022). The Transformation of Polygyny in Sub Saharan‐

Africa. Population and Development Review, 48(4), 1125-1162.


You’ll need to convert this APA-style References page to an MLA Works Cited page.


Damtie, Y., Kefale, B., Yalew, M., Arefaynie, M., & Adane, B. (2021). Multilevel analysis of

determinants of polygyny among married men in Ethiopia. BMC Public Health, 21, 1-10.

Harel-Shalev, A., & Kook, R. (2021). Ontological security, trauma and violence, and the

protection of women: polygamy among minority communities. Frontiers in psychology,

12, 743478.

Njoh, A. J. (2016). Tradition, Culture and Development in Africa: Historical Lessons for

Modern Development Planning. Routledge.

Whitehouse, B. (2023). Enduring Polygamy: Plural Marriage and Social Change in an African

Metropolis. Rutgers University Press.