Polygamy and Australian Society

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QUESTION 10 “Would polygamy work in Australia today? Use cross-cultural comparisons to support your argument, pay attention to the advantages and disadvantages of this form of marriage.”

In this essay I will argue the point that polygamy will not work in the Australian society in which we live today. ‘Polygamy is not merely an exotic habit of a few faraway people. A wide range of very different societies allow a man to be married to more that one wife simultaneously and is even today a viable form of marriage in large parts of the world’. (Bretschneider 1995 p.11) I will support my argument based on the reasons some of these cultures practice polygamy and why in Australia there is no need for this type of marriage. There are many theories to explain the development of polygamy within cultures, I will examine several of these reasons and compare them to the Australian society of today.

Firstly I will look at an example of a hunter gather society such as the !Kung Tribe in Africa. In the !Kung society many men would like a polygamous marriage but only 5% have one. The benefits to these men are obvious. He gains a new sexual partner, and he is likely to have more children and has a substantial new provider of food to his family. In the !Kung society most woman do not want to become involved in such a marriage, they claim that sexual jealously, rivalry, favouritism and disputes over chores make a polygamous life quite a difficult one. Even the men find a polygamous marriage difficult to manage and are constantly trying to keep an equal balance to prevent jealousy. (Shostak 1981)

If this is compared to Australian society today, then yes the male has the advantage of more than one sexual partner but as with the !Kung it becomes a difficult marriage to manage. ‘The !Kung society is one based on equality between the sexes.’ (Shostak 1981 p.237) Australians could learn a great deal from the !Kung when it comes to equality between the sexes, but even...
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