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Karamoja Women Seek Ban on Polygamy to Fight Poverty :: Uganda Radionetwork

Karamoja Women Seek Ban on Polygamy to Fight Poverty

Polygamy is a common practice among the Karamojong people especially the men while women are expected to be faithful to their shared husband.
A group from Kotido district performing a traditional dance

Audio 4

Women in Karamoja sub-region have appealed to the elders to abolish the practice of polygamy which is a biggest barrier to food security in the region.

Polygamy is a common practice among the Karamojong especially the men and women are expected to be faithful and elders who are responsible for decision-making play important roles during meetings.

The matter was raised during celebrations to mark the seventh Edition of the Karamoja cultural festival.

The one-week festival that was held in Abim district attracted thousands of Ateker people from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Teso and Karamoja.

According to the Karamoja Food Security and Nutrition Assessment of June 2017, by FAO, polygamy was found to be more common in the districts of Kaabong, Amudat, Moroto and Nakapiripirit.

Mary Ayune, a mother of seven children in Abim town council, says polygamous marriages in Karamoja are fueling poverty and says if women just continue watching men continue with the practice, hunger and extreme poverty will continue pounding families.

‘’I know it is the pride of our men to have many women and abandoning the practice will be a war, but I request the government to help us intervene in this matter’’ she said.

She added that although a large family may have enough manpower for production, polygamy should be discouraged and outlawed because such marriages have a negative financial impact on women and children.

Magdalena Adiaka a mother of ten children in Iriiri sub-county in Napak district says most of the women living in a polygamous union are grappling with extreme poverty as their husbands shun away from their responsibilities.

Adiaka says the practice should be abolished because it has put women at increased risk of HIV/AIDs and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases since men will continue marrying as many women they wish.

‘’Polygamy is the biggest contributor to poverty as most men who get into it cannot afford it and it is women and children who suffer most,’’ Adiaka lamented.

She added that in other cases, the man has to divide his little resources between all the families and there is less money while sometimes they consider the new wife and they abandon the old ones.

Adiaka reiterated that several women in polygamous families are going through hardships in silence and the practice has contributed to hunger and insecurity in the region.

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But Ms Steffan Adupa, the district woman councilor representing Tapac sub-county in Moroto district says polygamy was better in the early days unlike in the current situation where the economy is becoming harder.

Adupa also revealed that many a woman are unaware they are even sharing a husband as he may keep them in separate homes without informing her.

She acknowledged that in the earlier days, the first wife would be the one to look for another wife so that to help her with domestic work at home.

‘’A man would just agree with his spouse to get another partner, sometimes it was even the wife to help a man to engage the second wife to accept to marry her husband so they can stay together as co-wives,’’ Adupa explained.

Adupa revealed that although the practice is bad, it may be tricky to ban it because the elders who are supposed to guide are the main drivers of polygamy.

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Meanwhile, Emmanuel Lodio, the Kotido district speaker observed that there is no problem for men marrying more women so long as they are living a happy life.

Lodio noted that there is no need to restrict men from marrying more women when it’s believed that the population of women are more than men.

‘’Where do wives want other women to go? There is no way we can deny them their rights if they want to marry, this is the agreement between the two people’’ Lodio argued.

Lodio said the Elders should not waste their time intervening into the matter because.

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Simon Nangiro, the chairperson of Karamoja Elders Association said it is impossible to ban polygamy in the Karamojong culture because it is a symbol of success.

Nangiro observed that men in Karamoja have taken multiple wives for centuries citing the need to have a large family to help with farm labor, and security at home.

''The practice cannot be discouraged because a large family is traditionally seen as a source of pride and wealth as women manage most of the assets like land for production'' Nangiro said.

Nangiro says women are a factor of production and more women for a man amounts a lot of wealth in the family.

He said it is the responsibility of a woman and the children to work hard to produce food for themselves and the blames should not be tagged on men.

Nangiro, confirmed that there is nothing much they can do as elders to stop polygamy because it is part of the culture and no man has ever complained of failing to maintain many women in the relationship.

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