South Africa has proposed a law that allows women to marry multiple husbands at the same time – polyandry – triggering protests from conservative quarters.

South Africa already allows same-sex marriages for all and polygamy for men.

The document also proposes giving legal recognition to Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Rastafarian marriages.

Businessman and TV personality Musa Mseleku, who has four wives, is among those opposed to polyandry. He said:

This will destroy African culture. What about the children of those people? How will they know their identity?

The woman cannot now take the role of the man. It’s unheard of. Will the woman now pay lobola [bride price] for the man. Will the man be expected to take her surname?

Professor Collis Machoko, a renowned academic on the topic conducted a research on polyandry in Zimbabwe and observed that love was the main reason the men he interviewed said they had agreed to be co-husbands.

They told him that they did not want to risk losing their wife.

Some men also said they did not satisfy their wives sexually so they end up agreeing to the suggestion of a co-husband to avoid divorce or affairs.

Another reason was infertility – some men consented to the wife taking another husband so that she could have children. In this way, the men “saved face” in public and avoided being stigmatised as “emasculated”.

Prof Machoko said polyandry was once practised in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, and it is still practised in Gabon, where the law allows it.

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