Meet the tribe in Nigeria where women have more than one husband
We’ve all heard of men with multiple wives, but women with multiple husbands? Not so much.
We’ve also witnessed celebrities and leaders, especially in the north with many wives and no one bats an eyelid when they come across such stories. However, the discussion of women whose traditions allow them to marry multiple husbands is likely to raise eyebrows and turn heads.
Polyandry, in which a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time, is not a phenomenon we’re familiar with, especially in a country like ours. Although this may be foreign in Nigeria, many parts of the world, including certain regions in Africa and countries like Nepal, China, and some parts of Northern India, consider it a norm.
In this article, we’ll elaborate on the Irigwe tribe in Northern Jos, where women were allowed to practice polyandry.
Polyandry practices in Irigwe
The Irigwe people, living on the western edge of Plateau, Jos are a unique group of people numbering approximately 17,000. This small group of people are known to be strong supporters of polyandry. It may or may not be as surprising given their peculiar customs, language and social traditions, which set them apart from neighbouring tribes.
In the Irigwe culture, women were allowed to have multiple husbands and moved freely from one man's house to another. Though they had multiple spouses, their children’s paternity was attributed to the husband with whom the woman lived at a given time. The Irigwe people practised polyandry for many decades until it was officially outlawed in 1968.
Reasons for practising polyandry
Several reasons contributed to the practice of polyandry among the Irigwe people. Aside from their tradition and culture, some other reasons why they practised polyandry are:
Economic considerations: The practice allows for the pooling of resources, labour, and land among the husbands, which was especially important in their agricultural communities.
Infertility: Polyandry served as a solution to issues of infertility. When one husband is unable to father children, the responsibility of fathering children would be shared among the other husbands in the marriage.
Inheritance and land rights: In some cases, polyandry helped preserve family land and property rights. Since children born in a polyandrous marriage are considered the heirs of all the husbands involved, the family's land and assets remain within the group.
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