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A Cross Cultural Perspective of Polygyny As an institution polygyny the social arrangement that permits a man to have more than one wife at the same time exists in all parts of the world From our present knowledge there are very few primitive tribes in which a man is not allowed to enter into more than one union In fact ethologists now believe that only one to two percent of all species may be monogamous Tucker None of the simian species are strictly monogamous our closest relatives the chimpanzees practice a form of group marriage Among the 849 human societies examined by the anthropologist Murdock 1957 75 practiced polygyny Many peoples have been said to be monogamous but it is difficult to infer from the data at our disposal whether monogamy is the prevalent practice the moral ideal or an institution safeguarded by sanctions Malinowski 1962 Historically polygyny was a feature of the ancient Hebrews the traditional Chinese and the nineteenth-century Mormons in the United States but the modern practice of polygyny is concentrated in Africa the Middle East India Thailand and Indonesia The extent to which men are able to acquire multiple wives depends on many factors including the economic prosperity of the mans family the prevailing bride price the differential availability of marriageable females the need and desire for additional offspring and the availability of productive roles for subsequent wives Even in societies that permit polygyny the conditions of life for the masses make monogamy the most common form of marriage The two variations of polygyny are sororal the cowives are sisters and nonsororal the cowives are not sisters Some societies also observe the custom of levirate making it compulsory for a man to marry his brothers widow It must be remembered that any form of polygyny is never practiced throughout the entire community there cannot exist a community in which every man would have several wives because this
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