A proposal by the South African government to legalise polyandry- where a woman has more than one husband at the same time- has led to howls of protest from conservative quarters.
South Africa has one of the world's most liberal constitutions, embracing same-sex marriages for all and polygamy for men.
Prof. Machoko researched polyandry in his country of birth- neighbouring Zimbabwe. He spoke to 20 women and 45 co- husbands who practised it, even though such marriages are socially taboo and not legally recognised.
The participants of Prof. Machoko's study all lived separately but were committed to the polyandrous union and were open about it among themselves.
With arrival of christianity and colonisation the role of the woman became diminished. They were no longer equal. Marriage became one of the tools used to establish hierarchy.
Prof. Machoko said concerns about children born from a polyandrous union were rooted in patriarchy. The question of children is an easy one. Whatever children are born from that union are the children of the family.
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