A proposal last week by Malaysia’s Islamic party argued that polygamy can be beneficial for women.
The conservative Islamic party has called for Muslim men in the country to marry single mothers instead of “young virgin girls,” said a state official. Al-Arabiya news channel quoted Wan Ubaidah, head of women, family and health affairs in a northern state, remarking that although Malaysian men usually prefer young and virgin girls as their additional wives, this new proposal would help single mothers and widows who are finding it hard to raise their kids.
Muslim men in Malaysia are allowed to marry up to four women under the approval of the Islamic courts but it’s not widespread in the country. The proponents of the practice say it helps disadvantaged women like single mothers and widows and discourage adultery and prostitution. But many women’s rights activists condemn it as an unequal and unjust practice against women.
The debate over polygamy has been going on in Malaysia for awhile now. In August, a “polygamy club,” was founded in the country to promote polygamous marriages. The aim is to help “single mothers, reformed prostitutes and women who feel they are past the marrying age” find the appropriate spouse to marry. The club claims to have 1000 members of which 700 are women.
A possible opening of a branch of the club in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, has provoked outrage among some religious leaders and women’s rights groups in that country. According to the Associated Press, analysts believe the number of men who prefer to marry more than one wife is rising in Indonesia, and includes some religious leaders and political figures.
Islamic law allows for a man to marry up to four wives under the condition that he can provide for all four of them fairly and equally. The practice is especially common in traditional Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. But it’s prohibited in more secular predominantly Muslim countries such as Turkey, Tunisia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and abhorred by many women’s rights activists.
Explore the legal status of polygamy with this interactive map.