PNG law dean argues case for keeping polygamy
The dean of the University of Papua New Guinea's law school says polygamy is a tradition that should remain an option.
The dean of the University of Papua New Guinea's law school says polygamy is a tradition that should remain an option in modern societies.
Professor John Luluaki, who teaches family law, recently spoke at a law conference in Port Moresby, outlining arguments for and against the practice of having more than one spouse.
Professor Luluaki told Amelia Langford that polygamy serves a purpose.
JOHN LULUAKI: There are many cultures that have abandoned polygamy because of the influences of Christianity and modern demands and cash economies, that kind of thing. But there are still many societies in this country that continue to observe the practice of polygamy because it is functional. It is functional because it is the best remedy for certain social crisis situations.
AMELIA LANGFORD: And what would those be?
JL: Widowhood... Life outside of marriage in society is not possible. Widowhood, barrenness, particularly if the woman is barren she would, in some societies, promote the ideal of polygamy so that she can be able to assist her husband to have children. There are kinds of crisis situations that make polygamy functional in some societies and they wish to continue it.
AL: So do you think polygamy does serve a purpose, a valid purpose?
JL: It does, in traditional societies. And it is entirely up to those societies. But most importantly it is entirely up to women to reject it. If they reject it there's nothing men can do. If women reject polygamy that is the end of the story - polygamy simply dies a natural death, we move on.
AL: It, obviously, was popular in traditional societies. Do you think it has a place in modern societies?
JL: I cannot answer that question the way you may want me to answer it. What I can say is I think the options must be available for women who may want to marry polygamously. If they wish to marry polygamously, what they need to know before they enter into such a contract are the likely consequences. If they choose to marry polygamously, these are the consequences. That is why we need to talk about it, so they know what the options are and what the consequences are, rather than telling them 'You can't marry a man who is already married'. They must be given the choice. But they won't have a real choice unless they are advised of the likely consequences of marrying someone who's already married.
AL: Talking of options, what about if it was the other way around and a woman had many husbands - does that happen?
JL: Well, it's entirely up to them. If they want to have more than one man they have to look for men who are prepared to become second husbands. That's also an option. That's an option that should be talked about, discussed. Look, the options for polygynous polygamy and polyamorous polygamy must be available to both genders, to both men and women.
Professor Luluaki says PNG is currently awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether to recognise polygamy. PNG's Constitutional and Law Reform Commission asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of polygamy to better protect the rights of women and children.