Polygyny (which comes from neo-Greek: πολύ "poly" "many" + γυνή "gyny" "woman") is a specific form of polygamy, where a male individual is recognized to have more than one female sexual partner or wife at the same time. It is distinguished from a man having multiple sexual partners outside of marriage, such as concubinage, casual sexual partners, paramours, and recognized secondary partners. Polygyny is the most common form of polygamy. The much rarer practice of a woman having more than one male sexual partner is called polyandry.

In human societies

Polygamy has been practiced in many cultures throughout history. It was accepted in ancient Hebrew society, in classical China, and in many traditional African and Polynesian cultures. In India it was practiced during ancient times; currently, it is considered illegal. states that the king shall not have too many wives. [ [http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=9981&showrashi=true Judaica Press Complete Tanach, Devarim - Chapter 17] from Chabad.org] [The king's behavior is condemned by Prophet Samuel in to mean that a man can only take a second wife if he is capable of maintaining the same level of marital duties due to his first wife; the marital duties are 1) food, 2) clothing, and 3) sexual gratification. Because of these two biblical limitations and because nearly all countries outlaw it, polygyny is considered impractical, and there are no known cases of it among Karaite Jews.


Polygyny was also practiced in the New Testament period.

Many Christians in the United States believe that polygyny is wrong and claim there is New Testament Biblical evidence to support that stance, citing for example .

Taiwan - Republic of China (ROC)

Polygyny is illegal. However, it is common for some richer Taiwanese to have secret second lovers who become concubines not living together with the wifeFact|date=March 2007. Taiwanese merchants, businessmen and workers are stationed in mainland China during work trips, and it is usual to keep secret lovers or even secret families there.

Hong Kong & Macau

Polygyny was banned in October 1971 but the practice is still evident. A famous example is Dr Stanley Ho who owned the Macau Casino in Lisbon. He has 4 wives. His uncle has 12 wives.Fact|date=September 2007

In Hong Kong, since work pressure is extremely high and birth rate is the lowest among the world, many Hong Kong businessmen keep a secret concubine across the border in mainland China.Fact|date=September 2007 One of the reasons is that the cost of maintaining a second family there in the PRC is lower. Girls in mainland China are also more willing to be a full-time mother at a younger age.

In a research paper of Berlin Humboldt University on sexology, Doctor Man-Lun Ng quoted that the estimation of about 300,000 men have mistresses in China. In 1995, 40% of the extramarital affairs involved a stable partner [http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/IES/hongkong.html] International Herald Tribune Kevin Murphy had reported the cross-border polygyny phenomenon in Hong Kong in 1995. [http://www.iht.com/articles/1995/02/07/lunar.php]

Period drama exists and is performed to this day which depicts the former culture of the polygamy (usually polygyny) practice. A famous example: one of the saga (The Deer and the Cauldron / The Duke of the Mount Deer) by Hong Kong famous writer Louis Cha (Jin Yong): he assigned 7 willing wives for the very capable leading role Wei Xiaobao (WaiSiu-Bo) who is a successful double spy good at office politics and human relations. The fiction and subsequent films and television drama became immensely popular among Chinese societies across the world.


Most majority Muslim countries (except Albania, Tunisia, Turkey, and former USSR republics) retain traditional Sharia which interpret the teachings of the Quran to permit polygyny up to four wives. Albania is a country where although about 70% of the population is historically Muslim, majority is non-confessional. Turkey and Tunisia are countries with absolute majority Muslim populations (99.8% and 98% respectively) that enforce secularist practices by law. In former USSR republics, prohibition of polygyny is the heritage of the Soviet Law. Currently there is a revival of polygyny in the Muslim World and there have been attempts to re-legalize and/or re-legitimize it in some countries and communities where it is illegal.



Ramzan Kadyrov, President of the Chechen Republic, was quoted on radio saying that the depopulation of Chechnya by war justifies legalizing polygamy/polygyny. [http://pilegesh.blogspot.com/2007/02/i-do-i-do-i-do-i-do-economic-case-for.html] Kadyrov was supported by Nafigallah Ashirov, the Chairman of the Council of Grand Muftis of Russia. Ashirov stated that polygyny is already widespread among Muslim communities of the country. [http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=32064] Polygyny is illegal throughout the Russian Federation but it is tolerated in predominantly Muslim republics such as Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. [http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article338474.ece]

Although non-Muslim Russian populations are historically monogamous, Russian liberal democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky offers to legalize polygyny in order to tackle the demographic crisis of Russians. Zhirinovsky made his first proposal to legalize polygyny as early as 1993, after Kadyrov's statement declared that he would introduce an amendment to legalize polygyny for all Russian citizens. [http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=14235] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4610396.stm]


In Kyrgyzstan, a proposal to decriminalize polygyny came before the Kyrgyz parliament. Although illegal, polygyny is a traditional practice revived in Kyrgyzstan. On March 26 2007, despite strong backing of the Justice Minister, country's ombudsman, and Muslim Women's organization "Mutakalim" that gathered 40,000 signatures in favour of polygyny, the parliament rejected the bill. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is known as a prominent opponent of legalizing polygyny. [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/3/D46AEFBC-4179-4966-806C-E0D37A9C815C.html] [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/03/3a857e81-77ec-42af-a249-e0ed943d85f4.html?napage=3]


Due to subsequent increase in number of polygamous marriages, proposals were made in Tajikistan to re-legalize polygyny. [http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/culture/articles/eav102002.shtml] Tajik women who want to be second wives are particularly supportive of decriminalizing polygyny. Mukhiddin Kabiri, the Deputy Chairman of Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan states that legislation is unlikely to stop the growth in polygyny and criticizes the ruling élite for speaking out against the practice while taking more than one wife themselves. [http://iwpr.net/?p=rca&s=f&o=162938&apc_state=henirca2002]

Other former USSR republics

There were also recent arguments in favour of re-legalizing polygyny in other Muslim ex-Soviet republics like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan. [http://www.rickross.com/reference/polygamy/polygamy298.html]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Muslim communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been traditionally known as practicing polygyny at a very limited level. The custom last existed in Cazinska Krajina in the early 1950s. [http://www.everyculture.com/multi/A-Br/Bosnian-Americans.html] Although illegal in the country, polygyny is encouraged by certain religious circles and there is a current increase in number. This trend is usually seen linked with the advent of Wahhabism in the Balkans. [http://www.taoofdefiance.com/2007/03/23/the-spread-of-wahhabism-in-bosnia/]

Bosniak population in neighbouring Sandžak is also affected by the trend in Bosnia. There were attempts to adopt entire Islamic jurisdiction including polygyny but these moves were rejected. However, this could not bar the top cleric (Mufti of Novi Pazar) Muamer Zukorlić from taking a second wife. [http://www.wluml.org/english/newsfulltxt.shtml?cmd%5B157%5D=x-157-546374]


In Turkey, polygyny has been strictly discouraged since the adoption of Turkish Civil Code in 1926, a milestone of Atatürk's secularist reforms. Although not allowed in the legislation and not approved by state authorities, polygamous marriages praised by imams who are, in the Turkish context, civil servants of Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı are conducted. Turkey, as a member of the OIC, is also a signatory of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam that considers Sharia as the sole reference of human rights issues. [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Cairo_Declaration_on_Human_Rights_in_Islam]

Polygyny is a common occurrence in Kurdish villages. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/4165896.stm] Overall, polygyny is on the rise in Turkey. [http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007775] An opinion poll in 2004 showed that 63% of Turks favoured polygyny. [http://www.parapundit.com/archives/002388.html#002388] On April 6 2007, Municipal Assembly of Çıplaklı (composed of members of the ruling moderate Islamist AK Parti and conservative-liberal ANAP) in Alanya unanimously adopted a resolution to support men who consider taking a second wife ("kuma"). People of Çıplaklı are Yörük, a Turkic ethnicity who practice transhumance. "When we go to the summer pastures and leave our wives behind, we feel very lonely." told Ali İhsan Topal, a member of the Assembly from AK Parti. [http://www.radikal.com.tr/haber.php?haberno=217712]

United States and Canada

The most prominent American polygynous society is the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a splinter sect of Latter Day Saint movement based in Colorado City. In 2005, a meeting was called between the governors of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico in an effort to economically and politically isolate religious sects that practice polygyny, mainly the FLDS.Fact|date=January 2007 British Columbia has also politically isolated its small polygynous religious community, located in the southeastern portion of the province Fact|date=March 2007.Fundamentalist Mormons represent a growing number of polygynous marriages in the US today. With growing fear of daycares, concerns over the lack of discipline in public schools, and the blossoming of so called "Super Preachers" and "Super Churches", fundamentalist Mormons are seeking to strengthen the family though plural marriage, where the children are cared for within the home.

See also

* Mating system
* Monogamy
* Plaçage
* Polyandry
* Polygamy
* Polygynandry




* Bates, Roy (2008) "All About Females in the Forbidden City." TuDragons Books Ltd., Beijing, China. Available from Lulu.com.


: 6. [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polygynous The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary]

Further reading

* Low, Bobbi S. (1990). Marriage systems and pathogen stress in human societies . "American Zoologist 30:" 325‑339. [http://sitemaker.umich.edu/snre-faculty-bobbilow/files/pathogenstressamzoo.pdf Full text] - (Paper reports positive correlation between pathogen stress & polygyny.)

External links

* [http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/ant/research.htm The Chinese University Of Hong Kong: Anthropology Department: Research Topics]
* [http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/ant/others/past1999.htm Hong Kong Anthropological Society: speeches summary]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Polygyny — Po*lyg y*ny, n. [Poly + Gr. ? woman, wife.] The state or practice of having several wives at the same time; marriage to several wives. H. Spenser. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • polygyny — polygyny. См. полигиния. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • polygyny — (n.) 1780, having many wives, from poly many (see POLY (Cf. poly )) + Gk. gyne woman, wife (see QUEEN (Cf. queen)). Related: Polygynous …   Etymology dictionary

  • polygyny — ► NOUN ▪ polygamy in which a man has more than one wife. DERIVATIVES polygynous adjective. ORIGIN from Greek gun woman …   English terms dictionary

  • polygyny — [pə lij′ə nē, pōlij′ə nē] n. [< ModL polygynia < POLY + Gr gynē, woman, wife: see GYNO ] 1. the state or practice of having two or more wives at the same time 2. Bot. the fact of having many styles or pistils 3. Zool. the mating of a male… …   English World dictionary

  • polygyny — /peuh lij euh nee/, n. 1. the practice or condition of having more than one wife at one time. 2. (among male animals) the habit or system of having two or more mates, either simultaneously or successively. 3. (among social insects) the condition… …   Universalium

  • polygyny — A term denoting the concurrent marriage of one man with two or more women. This is not uncommon and is widespread in human societies. Where the women involved are sisters it is termed sororal polygyny. Some writers appear to use polygamy rather… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • polygyny — n. [Gr. polys, many; gyne, female] 1. The mating of a male with more than one female; see monogamy. 2. (ARTHROPODA: Insecta) In Hymenoptera, the coexistance of several to many queens in the same colony. a. Primary polygyny: Two or more queens… …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • polygyny — noun Date: 1780 the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time compare polyandry, polygamy …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • polygyny — a male mating with more than one female …   Dictionary of ichthyology

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