Polygamy: Another Silent Killer in War Time

Patriarchy is a social system in which men dominate and in which powers and possessions belong only to men. There exist both patriarchal men and women. A patriarchal woman is one who has internalized the norms and values of patriarchy, which could be regarded as ‘any culture that priviledges men by promoting traditional gender roles’. Patriarchal beliefs prones the inborn inferiority of women, who are accordingly termed to be naturally submissive. The place of the ‘Nordist’ woman in Cameroon is the same as that of every rural woman. As a ‘good woman’’, she is in charge of the home’s chores, child bearing, and farming. She is the property of her husband or something beautiful that a man could own, gaze upon, and satisfy his sexual needs. That is why; he can have as many as four wives.

The negative effect of war on women and children are enormous and we will not come back to it now.  Women and children are particularly vulnerable in times of war. Many have brought up theories against polygamy but none or very little have taken time to discuss on the added disadvantage of polygamy during war time or crisis. Stories from the North of Cameroon have been brought to us, some of us have travelled to the North to see it for ourselves and in conclusion, Polygamy has an added disadvantage on women and children in times of crisis.

The threat posed by the Boko Haram sect is persisting in the Northern part of Cameroon. Bomb blasts are multiplying and the number of victims is on the rise. Apart from violence, women being used in suicide bombings and rapes, most women have become premature widows with several orphans to look after.  Since the outbreak of the crisis, it has been reported that more than 600 men have disappeared from the town of Mora alone. We are talking of family heads that have disappeared abandoning wives and children. Each man who disappeares leaves behind at least two helpless wives and ten children: These women, to whom no one ever taught how to get a paid job or learn money making skills, are abandoned with a host of children to look after. Meanwhile, the area is facing economic stagnation, poverty and high unemployment rate. Most of these children could easily fall prey to the succulent proposal of Boko Haram heads. There is a wide literature about the negative effects of polygamy and its negative aspect on war is worth noting and giving a second thought. 

Here is my proposal: I think polygamy should stop being considered as a traditional or social norm.  Polygamy should be a personal decision. In this light girls should be educated against polygamy; women should be educated to warn the girl child against polygamy so as to encourage these young women to be interested in education and the right to a paid job. If women in these areas are educated, the family doesn’t end with the man. Women will be able to take care of their families in times of war and this will reduce alcoholism, criminality and promiscuity in our communities, thus reducing HIV Aids and other veneral diseases.

I therefore, strongly share Bole Butake’s point of view in his book 'Bethrothal without Libation' when he says that ‘a woman is capable of rising above her supposed degenerate self’. This point should not be misunderstood. It goes beyong the noise ‘’what a man can do, a woman can do it better.’’ I am no feminist but an objective and rational woman who knows the benefits of education. I do not mean women are better than men. I mean men and women are all human beings who need to be treated with respect and dignity. No two people are the same in the world, not even twins. Women and men are two different types of people, and even, no two women are the same. For me, the relationship between men and women in our society is not and should not be that of rivalry, but should be one of complementarity.