custom and women's rights (polygamy)

custom and women's rights (polygamy)

josepha kanawi
josepha kanawi

August 29th, 2002, 9:29 am #1

Polygamy

Not all societies in Papua New Guinea practice polygamy.
In those that do, not all male members are entitled to multiple wives. Certain men may achieve "bigman" status, which is measured in terms of his wealth in land, valuables, pigs, cassowaries and the like. The wives he marries are not "bought" without the approval of the woman’s extended family, any other previous wives, and other kin. Marriage was an alliance between two groups, for economic, political and social values or strength, and hence approval was needed from all those involved.

This is not to say that the views of individuals were totally disregarded. The consent of the woman concerned was also necessary. But her choice was itself dictated, consciously or unconsciously, by considerations of group interests.
Our traditional societies relied on the fundamental cohesion and alliance of kin group. Hence all social decisions were taken in this context.

In modern Papua New Guinea, men from areas where polygamy is not customary are practicing polygamy. Men with money and positions of power, are "buying" women. Even where polygamy was customary, the idea is abused these days. Multiple wives are seen as a way of earning bigman status, rather than as a result of it.

In this truncated operation of custom, women have definitely become chattels. The solution is to outlaw polygamy. Custom has been used as an excuse for adulterous affairs or even for prostitution.

[End of the fourth and final part]
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mysterious
mysterious

August 30th, 2002, 1:45 am #2

totally agree....an article I have kept relating to this issue.. on the surface it seems a good thing, but behind closed doors if was a different story. "cut and paste"

Family Affairs

Polygamy is all the rage in Papua New Guinea, despite increasing opposition from young and educated women. A group of PNG's journalism students reports.

Victorina Linglingro doesn't get much sleep these days. Most nights, she is kept awake by the aggressive arguments continuing just the other side of her bedroom wall. It's the new family next door and the voices usually belong to two women - arguing over the husband they share. Not surprisingly, the bitter feuds have confirmed Victorina's stance against polygamy. In fact, like many young women, the tourism student, from New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea, blames the institution for violence in marriages, hatred between wives and inequality in the home.

Increasing numbers of women from PNG are set against the custom and, like Victorina, turning down marriage altogether. Anastasia Sai, a lecturer at PNG's Divine Word University, voices the opinions of the educated when she says: “Men cannot use culture as an excuse for polygamy. It's out of date. It's a convenient excuse used as a cover up for a man's ego. Polygamy is a selfish relationship and it's an insult to women.”

Old-style polygamy was an appropriate institution, but the modern equivalent has lost its meaning. Caroline Penn/Panos.

need or greed?

Yet despite vigorous opposition from increasing numbers of PNG's young women, the tradition is on the rise. Polygamy has always been allowed under the country's Constitution and there are no legal restrictions on the number of wives a man can have. One man in Mount Hagen, in the Highlands, is reputed to have more than 20 wives. But the tradition has changed. In the past, the luxury was usually afforded only to men in positions of authority for the purposes of securing heirs, creating alliances and forging community bonds. The `bigman' or clan leader, was always expected to have more than one wife, since it was his responsibility to offer hospitality to clan members and would need several wives to look after his pigs and gardens. And in many communities, such as the Sepik, it was also common practice for a man to marry his brother's widow and look after their children. Polygamy worked well in a subsistence economy when there was no danger of wives going without because their husband was short of cash.

Today, Papua New Guinea's young men see polygamy in very different terms. Any man who can afford to support them is taking multiple wives. And that number is on the rise since development and the growth of business and commerce in the country has concentrated wealth in the hands of more men. The tradition has become increasingly associated with prestige, wealth, even sexuality. Father Patrick Gesch, a missionary from the Society of the Divine Word and an anthropologist says: “Young men nowadays justify their actions by saying that their fathers did it. When young people talk about polygamy today, it is like a great accomplishment. For young people today, being sexually active is appealing.”

And it's not just rural communities, or uneducated men who are attracted to the concept. Edward Lelemitoe, a university student in Madang, says many of his friends are at it. “It's a very expensive exercise and you have to worry about looking after too many children, but if they think they can handle the pressure it's up to them,” he says.

marriage without consent

Part of the problem is that women are not yet confident enough to make a public stand against the tradition. Gender equality is not on the increase and, in many ways, women are losing ground. Violence against women is on the rise and abuse of alcohol is blamed for more assaults on wives by their husbands. The UN has just declared PNG to be the second worst place in the world for sexual violence against women. Not surprisingly, they are still reluctant to take positions of leadership on contentious issues such as polygamy, since it is likely to attract hostility from men.

Meanwhile, many do not have the opportunity or education to turn down a role as third wife. As Elizabeth Sarer, a journalism student from East New Britain Province puts it: “Young women who have not been educated and are unable to find jobs are happy to marry a businessman who already has two wives. The offer of material goods and money means they are willing to come second or third.”

"Men cannot use culture as an excuse for Polygamy. It's out of date. It's a convenient excuse used as a cover up for a man's ego. Polygamy is a selfish relationship and its an insult to women."

Many women feel secure in a monogamous marriage until their husband suddenly takes another wife, often years down the line. Elis Ambros is typical. When she tied the knot, she was pleased that her husband, Willie, was a respectable policeman. But after 22 years of marriage, he started seeing another woman and, when she became pregnant, they moved in together hundreds of miles from the original family home. Under common law, Willie now has two wives since cohabiting couples are presumed to be married unless there is legal proof otherwise. Meanwhile, Elis has been left at home, struggling to care for their nine children without his financial support. And, while she is visited rarely by her husband, Elis must still do as he instructs and ask for permission to travel anywhere, either over the phone or through people travelling to and from his new area.

Other wives are unable to leave their husbands, despite such disappointment. Elia Aroga, a 38-year-old housewife and mother of four in Madang, was bitter when her husband took a second wife. But, she says: “I thought of the kids and their school fees. If I took court action and he was sent to prison or penalised, I didn't know where or how else I was going to get the money to look after my children. That is why I let Karl have his way and accepted his second wife.” Today they live together under one roof, with the two wives so differing in ages they could be mother and daughter. “We live in harmony and try to share whatever it is that our husband gives us, otherwise we would end up quarrelling,” she says. But, she adds: “If it weren't for my kids, I would have left him.” Polygamy is a particularly bitter subject for Piam Paul, who is serving a term of six years in prison. She was found guilty of wilful murder of her husband's second wife. Pleading that something be done about polygamy practices in PNG, she said she would not have committed the crime had her husband not brought another wife into the family in the first place. In fact, research by probation officers has shown that many marriages involving two or more wives end up with one or both of the wives in court for unlawful assault, wounding or causing grievous bodily harm. Most of these women are between the ages of 25 and 40 and the majority of them are illiterate.

Many feel that children suffer polygamy the most. “Those badly affected psychologically are the children who have polygamist fathers and lack their fathers' love,” says Agnes Kami, a teacher and member of women's group in Mt. Hagen. Mona Dano, who comes from the Milne Bay province, the eastern tip of PNG, adds: “Animosity between wives will result in the children being neglected and emotionally affected.” Dano is the second wife to her husband, and works to look after her five children. She says: “In such cases where the man is unable to financially look after all his offspring, there is a tendency for him to concentrate on one wife, neglecting completely the second wife and her children.”

learning dignity

In many parts of PNG, the defenders of polygamy also oppose the liberation of women. These are men who already have several wives, and they argue that polygamy is part of their culture and their traditional way of life. They see monogamy as a Western idea which is being imposed on them from outside. Yet there are other men who see polygamy as a once valuable tradition which has simply changed for the worse, and who are not ready to dismiss it out of hand. James Mosan explains: "My dad represents about 80 per cent of the population, who do not have access to basic goods and services. In his world, formal institutions such as health services were not designed to serve him. He sees polygamy as an institution for sensitivity, perception, empathy and ethics. If polygamy is not for contemporary western PNG, it is for our rural people.”

But the pro-polygamy contingent is increasingly embattled. Already the Catholic and other mainline churches are outspokenly opposed to the tradition, and have managed to eliminate it in some regions of the country. Father Jan Czuba of the Commission for Higher Education encapsulates the Catholic stance when he calls polygamy “against God and against women's rights”. Recently, the PNG council of churches called for the Government to outlaw polygamy. According to its submission, the high number of patients seeking medical attention because of injuries sustained in domestic violence is directly related to polygamous relationships. The Council argued that polygamy continues to deny women the right to personal security, safe environment, better health care and good family support systems to allow them to develop and improve their quality of life. It said: "We are not preserving our true culture if we choose to accept past customs which we realise are not fair and just in today's society." In all meetings held, the women unanimously backed the church. More powerful still, Opposition leader, Bernard Narakobi is planning to introduce a Bill during the first sessions of Parliament in July to outlaw polygamy.

Both actions will kick-start a valuable debate which has rarely been explored within government walls. But the Bill will not sail through Parliament without hindrance. There are many who take the view that current practices are simply an aberration of the tradition, that if old-style polygamy could be protected by law, the custom should stay. "I hope the condemnation of polygamy by the opposition was based on fact and careful analysis," says one man, Ronnie Patrick RiaRia. "Polygamy is meant to be a service to the community. Political leaders should see the changes to polygamy today and just introduce certain laws that will protect traditional polygamy."

"Most agree that polygamy is in PNG to stay until greater numbers of men and women have access to education. As Father Jan oppines: “Education enables women to earn and be financially independent. It bring
sufficient knowledge for women to protect themselves, and understand the importance of their own dignity. A polygamous marriage is not dignified.”

Reported by Theresia Kumo, Aiva Tamate, Steffi Murr, Joyceline Tseraha, Mosibu Alaung, and Rhonda Kavop.

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MHayes
MHayes

August 31st, 2002, 5:23 am #3

Polygamy

Not all societies in Papua New Guinea practice polygamy.
In those that do, not all male members are entitled to multiple wives. Certain men may achieve "bigman" status, which is measured in terms of his wealth in land, valuables, pigs, cassowaries and the like. The wives he marries are not "bought" without the approval of the woman’s extended family, any other previous wives, and other kin. Marriage was an alliance between two groups, for economic, political and social values or strength, and hence approval was needed from all those involved.

This is not to say that the views of individuals were totally disregarded. The consent of the woman concerned was also necessary. But her choice was itself dictated, consciously or unconsciously, by considerations of group interests.
Our traditional societies relied on the fundamental cohesion and alliance of kin group. Hence all social decisions were taken in this context.

In modern Papua New Guinea, men from areas where polygamy is not customary are practicing polygamy. Men with money and positions of power, are "buying" women. Even where polygamy was customary, the idea is abused these days. Multiple wives are seen as a way of earning bigman status, rather than as a result of it.

In this truncated operation of custom, women have definitely become chattels. The solution is to outlaw polygamy. Custom has been used as an excuse for adulterous affairs or even for prostitution.

[End of the fourth and final part]
Teik!

Tru! Tru!, tok blong yu i no giaman.

Mi wetim yu stap. Hariap na kam bek long ples. Bai yumi taitim rop long parliament.

Ibai
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namsu
namsu

August 31st, 2002, 9:05 am #4

Ibai teik,
thank you for coming across this board.
Klostu nau..
I miss you all.

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josepha
josepha

August 31st, 2002, 9:54 am #5

Teik!

Tru! Tru!, tok blong yu i no giaman.

Mi wetim yu stap. Hariap na kam bek long ples. Bai yumi taitim rop long parliament.

Ibai
Susa MH,
What are you girls up to? Sent emails to Jojo but have not had any response. What is WIP doing ?
What is the situation now with the NCW?
I read of mama Ena Pita only.
Can somebody in the know in Port MOresby put some notice on this Board so we know what is happening?
How are you girls and what are you girls up to,( MK, Jojo and yourself)?
Jojo has my email address should you all need/want to talk to me.
Any other general information for women of PNG, please just post onto this Board.
My regards to all, I'll be home soon.
jk
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MHayes
MHayes

August 31st, 2002, 1:45 pm #6

Ibai teik,
thank you for coming across this board.
Klostu nau..
I miss you all.
Moin, laikim!

My email add: ibaiau@yahoo.com.au

We miss yu tu.

Ibai
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MHayes
MHayes

August 31st, 2002, 1:58 pm #7

Susa MH,
What are you girls up to? Sent emails to Jojo but have not had any response. What is WIP doing ?
What is the situation now with the NCW?
I read of mama Ena Pita only.
Can somebody in the know in Port MOresby put some notice on this Board so we know what is happening?
How are you girls and what are you girls up to,( MK, Jojo and yourself)?
Jojo has my email address should you all need/want to talk to me.
Any other general information for women of PNG, please just post onto this Board.
My regards to all, I'll be home soon.
jk
MK, JJ and myself met yesterday at holiday inn poolside. Coincidently, we were wondering when you would come home.

NCW are still sleeping. I suppose waiting for some funds to organise their next AGM to elect new office bearers.

Secretary Position for Home Affairs is up for consideration for a Women Secretary. As you know, Lady Kidu is now the Minister for Home Affairs.

Otherwise, nothing much is moving with no funds.

A Women in Devpt forum will commence on Sept 2nd at ADColl and we just launched a WIM ( Women in Management inc). Good turn up of women, however only just begining.


Em tasol. I have given u my email add. Write to me.

Laikim yu nating tru!


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Baba
Baba

April 7th, 2011, 12:02 am #8

totally agree....an article I have kept relating to this issue.. on the surface it seems a good thing, but behind closed doors if was a different story. "cut and paste"

Family Affairs

Polygamy is all the rage in Papua New Guinea, despite increasing opposition from young and educated women. A group of PNG's journalism students reports.

Victorina Linglingro doesn't get much sleep these days. Most nights, she is kept awake by the aggressive arguments continuing just the other side of her bedroom wall. It's the new family next door and the voices usually belong to two women - arguing over the husband they share. Not surprisingly, the bitter feuds have confirmed Victorina's stance against polygamy. In fact, like many young women, the tourism student, from New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea, blames the institution for violence in marriages, hatred between wives and inequality in the home.

Increasing numbers of women from PNG are set against the custom and, like Victorina, turning down marriage altogether. Anastasia Sai, a lecturer at PNG's Divine Word University, voices the opinions of the educated when she says: “Men cannot use culture as an excuse for polygamy. It's out of date. It's a convenient excuse used as a cover up for a man's ego. Polygamy is a selfish relationship and it's an insult to women.”

Old-style polygamy was an appropriate institution, but the modern equivalent has lost its meaning. Caroline Penn/Panos.

need or greed?

Yet despite vigorous opposition from increasing numbers of PNG's young women, the tradition is on the rise. Polygamy has always been allowed under the country's Constitution and there are no legal restrictions on the number of wives a man can have. One man in Mount Hagen, in the Highlands, is reputed to have more than 20 wives. But the tradition has changed. In the past, the luxury was usually afforded only to men in positions of authority for the purposes of securing heirs, creating alliances and forging community bonds. The `bigman' or clan leader, was always expected to have more than one wife, since it was his responsibility to offer hospitality to clan members and would need several wives to look after his pigs and gardens. And in many communities, such as the Sepik, it was also common practice for a man to marry his brother's widow and look after their children. Polygamy worked well in a subsistence economy when there was no danger of wives going without because their husband was short of cash.

Today, Papua New Guinea's young men see polygamy in very different terms. Any man who can afford to support them is taking multiple wives. And that number is on the rise since development and the growth of business and commerce in the country has concentrated wealth in the hands of more men. The tradition has become increasingly associated with prestige, wealth, even sexuality. Father Patrick Gesch, a missionary from the Society of the Divine Word and an anthropologist says: “Young men nowadays justify their actions by saying that their fathers did it. When young people talk about polygamy today, it is like a great accomplishment. For young people today, being sexually active is appealing.”

And it's not just rural communities, or uneducated men who are attracted to the concept. Edward Lelemitoe, a university student in Madang, says many of his friends are at it. “It's a very expensive exercise and you have to worry about looking after too many children, but if they think they can handle the pressure it's up to them,” he says.

marriage without consent

Part of the problem is that women are not yet confident enough to make a public stand against the tradition. Gender equality is not on the increase and, in many ways, women are losing ground. Violence against women is on the rise and abuse of alcohol is blamed for more assaults on wives by their husbands. The UN has just declared PNG to be the second worst place in the world for sexual violence against women. Not surprisingly, they are still reluctant to take positions of leadership on contentious issues such as polygamy, since it is likely to attract hostility from men.

Meanwhile, many do not have the opportunity or education to turn down a role as third wife. As Elizabeth Sarer, a journalism student from East New Britain Province puts it: “Young women who have not been educated and are unable to find jobs are happy to marry a businessman who already has two wives. The offer of material goods and money means they are willing to come second or third.”

"Men cannot use culture as an excuse for Polygamy. It's out of date. It's a convenient excuse used as a cover up for a man's ego. Polygamy is a selfish relationship and its an insult to women."

Many women feel secure in a monogamous marriage until their husband suddenly takes another wife, often years down the line. Elis Ambros is typical. When she tied the knot, she was pleased that her husband, Willie, was a respectable policeman. But after 22 years of marriage, he started seeing another woman and, when she became pregnant, they moved in together hundreds of miles from the original family home. Under common law, Willie now has two wives since cohabiting couples are presumed to be married unless there is legal proof otherwise. Meanwhile, Elis has been left at home, struggling to care for their nine children without his financial support. And, while she is visited rarely by her husband, Elis must still do as he instructs and ask for permission to travel anywhere, either over the phone or through people travelling to and from his new area.

Other wives are unable to leave their husbands, despite such disappointment. Elia Aroga, a 38-year-old housewife and mother of four in Madang, was bitter when her husband took a second wife. But, she says: “I thought of the kids and their school fees. If I took court action and he was sent to prison or penalised, I didn't know where or how else I was going to get the money to look after my children. That is why I let Karl have his way and accepted his second wife.” Today they live together under one roof, with the two wives so differing in ages they could be mother and daughter. “We live in harmony and try to share whatever it is that our husband gives us, otherwise we would end up quarrelling,” she says. But, she adds: “If it weren't for my kids, I would have left him.” Polygamy is a particularly bitter subject for Piam Paul, who is serving a term of six years in prison. She was found guilty of wilful murder of her husband's second wife. Pleading that something be done about polygamy practices in PNG, she said she would not have committed the crime had her husband not brought another wife into the family in the first place. In fact, research by probation officers has shown that many marriages involving two or more wives end up with one or both of the wives in court for unlawful assault, wounding or causing grievous bodily harm. Most of these women are between the ages of 25 and 40 and the majority of them are illiterate.

Many feel that children suffer polygamy the most. “Those badly affected psychologically are the children who have polygamist fathers and lack their fathers' love,” says Agnes Kami, a teacher and member of women's group in Mt. Hagen. Mona Dano, who comes from the Milne Bay province, the eastern tip of PNG, adds: “Animosity between wives will result in the children being neglected and emotionally affected.” Dano is the second wife to her husband, and works to look after her five children. She says: “In such cases where the man is unable to financially look after all his offspring, there is a tendency for him to concentrate on one wife, neglecting completely the second wife and her children.”

learning dignity

In many parts of PNG, the defenders of polygamy also oppose the liberation of women. These are men who already have several wives, and they argue that polygamy is part of their culture and their traditional way of life. They see monogamy as a Western idea which is being imposed on them from outside. Yet there are other men who see polygamy as a once valuable tradition which has simply changed for the worse, and who are not ready to dismiss it out of hand. James Mosan explains: "My dad represents about 80 per cent of the population, who do not have access to basic goods and services. In his world, formal institutions such as health services were not designed to serve him. He sees polygamy as an institution for sensitivity, perception, empathy and ethics. If polygamy is not for contemporary western PNG, it is for our rural people.”

But the pro-polygamy contingent is increasingly embattled. Already the Catholic and other mainline churches are outspokenly opposed to the tradition, and have managed to eliminate it in some regions of the country. Father Jan Czuba of the Commission for Higher Education encapsulates the Catholic stance when he calls polygamy “against God and against women's rights”. Recently, the PNG council of churches called for the Government to outlaw polygamy. According to its submission, the high number of patients seeking medical attention because of injuries sustained in domestic violence is directly related to polygamous relationships. The Council argued that polygamy continues to deny women the right to personal security, safe environment, better health care and good family support systems to allow them to develop and improve their quality of life. It said: "We are not preserving our true culture if we choose to accept past customs which we realise are not fair and just in today's society." In all meetings held, the women unanimously backed the church. More powerful still, Opposition leader, Bernard Narakobi is planning to introduce a Bill during the first sessions of Parliament in July to outlaw polygamy.

Both actions will kick-start a valuable debate which has rarely been explored within government walls. But the Bill will not sail through Parliament without hindrance. There are many who take the view that current practices are simply an aberration of the tradition, that if old-style polygamy could be protected by law, the custom should stay. "I hope the condemnation of polygamy by the opposition was based on fact and careful analysis," says one man, Ronnie Patrick RiaRia. "Polygamy is meant to be a service to the community. Political leaders should see the changes to polygamy today and just introduce certain laws that will protect traditional polygamy."

"Most agree that polygamy is in PNG to stay until greater numbers of men and women have access to education. As Father Jan oppines: “Education enables women to earn and be financially independent. It bring
sufficient knowledge for women to protect themselves, and understand the importance of their own dignity. A polygamous marriage is not dignified.”

Reported by Theresia Kumo, Aiva Tamate, Steffi Murr, Joyceline Tseraha, Mosibu Alaung, and Rhonda Kavop.
Mosibu should speak for yourself.
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POLYGAMY A SERIOUS ISSUE TO WOMEN IN PNG
POLYGAMY A SERIOUS ISSUE TO WOMEN IN PNG

April 8th, 2011, 4:39 am #9

MK, JJ and myself met yesterday at holiday inn poolside. Coincidently, we were wondering when you would come home.

NCW are still sleeping. I suppose waiting for some funds to organise their next AGM to elect new office bearers.

Secretary Position for Home Affairs is up for consideration for a Women Secretary. As you know, Lady Kidu is now the Minister for Home Affairs.

Otherwise, nothing much is moving with no funds.

A Women in Devpt forum will commence on Sept 2nd at ADColl and we just launched a WIM ( Women in Management inc). Good turn up of women, however only just begining.


Em tasol. I have given u my email add. Write to me.

Laikim yu nating tru!

Take your CATCHING UPS AND BLOODY MEETINGS SOMEWHERE and some of us who take this Topic seriously want to discuss this
POLYGAMY ISSUE BREAKING FAMILIES APART..
THAT's THE REASON WHY THIS TOPIC IS POSTED HERE, ISN'T IT????
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Wantok
Wantok

July 13th, 2011, 2:02 pm #10

Turu ya tokim ol..lol...
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