Polygamy can negatively affect women, study finds

Dr Rana Raddawi, associate professor in the department of English at the American University of Sharjah, is to publish a research paper that shows many women in polygamous marriages feel neglected and jealous.

ABU DHABI // Women in polygamous marriages often suffer from negative emotions, a new study has found.

Experts have said such feelings were expected and that the responsibility of relieving those emotions lay with husbands who had to make the right decision when remarrying.

Dr Rana Raddawi, associate professor in the department of English at the American University of Sharjah, is to publish a research paper examining how women in polygamous marriages feel.

Her survey of 100 Arab women found that many of them experienced feelings of neglect and jealousy. She said she was inspired to conduct the study because of family members who are in polygamous marriages.

“I have many acquaintances and family members who have been involved in polygamy, and they suffered a lot over it,” she said.

“I could see the devastating consequences in terms of finding a woman without shelter, without financial support because of polygamy.

“The focus of my paper is to concentrate on the emotions – the negative emotions – that the practice of polygamy generates among some wives who are in such marriages.”

While her study used only a small sample, she believed it accurately represented common feelings.

In Islam, a man is allowed to marry up to four women. The Quran states there are conditions that must be met, including treating each wife with justice, fairness and equality.

However, the Quran also states that even if a man tries to be just, he cannot.

“It says ‘You shall not be fair even if you have a desire to be fair’, which means it is so difficult to be fair,” Dr Raddawi said.

“So when you do it you have to make sure that you are just to all parties, whether women or children, in terms of finance, support, moral support, love, attention, care and education of children.”

Nevertheless, Dr Raddawi said she found some did not receive these things.

She noted that some of the subjects said they rarely saw their husbands, and many said their husbands did not meet their needs.

Dr Heba Sharkas, a counsellor at Al Amal Centre for family issues in Abu Dhabi, said a man should marry a second wife only if he had the ability to give equal care and attention to each of his wives and children.

She said for a man to be able to take on several wives, he needed to be financially secure and emotionally mature.

“His responsibility is the most important factor.

“A man who is qualified will be able to preserve two or more households. He will have to have the financial and social abilities.”

Dr Sharkas said she was aware of the emotions felt by some wives, especially when they found out their husband was taking another wife.

“Serious cases range from depression, angry tantrums or even illnesses,” she said. “It depends on the tolerance and patience of the wife. The environment that the woman grows up in affects her ability to accept being part of a polygamous marriage.”

She said men had to take these feelings into account when choosing to remarry, and should explain why they wanted a new relationship.

In some cases, she said, the first wife had been unable to conceive a child, which could cause issues for a married couple.

“This issue could be resolved by finding another wife who is compatible to the husband and is willing and able to be in such a relationship,” Dr Sharkas said.

She said wives should keep in mind that the practice is permitted in Islam, and marrying again legitimately is better for all than an extramarital affair.

“The husband has not contradicted religion, and it is better to have a marriage than any other illegitimate relationship that creates unbalance in society,” she said.