Why educated South Sudanese men are polygamous

Posted: June 18, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By Philip Thon Aleu, Juba, South Sudan

The wedding of Amer Mayen Dhieu and Makwei Mabioor Deng on 14 October 2017. The best men in the picture are Dut Deng Atem, Aguer Bior Ajang, Awuol Wach Awuol, Philip Thon Aleu, Atok Dan Baguoot and Bol Madut Ayii at Dembesh hotel, Juba, South Sudan

Monday, June 18, 2018 (PW) — Polygamous marriage is old as ancient South Sudanese history. Polygamy is not popular today thanks to western education, cultural decay, exposure to foreign cultures and scarce resources. However, a considerable portion of South Sudanese men continue to marry two or three wives. Other men lifted the bar even higher; striking the throat-cutting ‘level four.’

South Sudanese feminists; particularly our sisters, wives and mothers, are bitter about this ‘uncivilized, primitive’ practice. Some feminists are mockingly suggesting polyandry (when a woman is married to more than one husband); a practice never heard of in South Sudan’s modern times.

The calls to allow both polyandry and polygamy aims at bringing the debate closer to hearts – so that men see their ‘wives’ entering into or emerging from a hut at damns with other men. Men, the feminists argue, will therefore feel the impacts that comes with polygamy. In few lines, I am making a case for polygamy amongst educated South Sudanese men.

The push and pull factors

Factors encouraging modern polygamy have never been elaborately, honestly and intellectually discussed. This lacks of discussion on polygamy has portrayed the women as victims and men as oppressors and abusers. The reasons for continued polygamy are interrelated with the ancient factors.

Family: People marry to form families (the bible is very clear on that). So the first reason educated South Sudanese men marry more than once is quest for a family. On the other hands, most South Sudanese women of today seem to have lost the meaning of family: union of men & women.

What appears to be the priority for today’s South Sudanese women is not the husband. Women wanted to be married and send to stay in rented apartments in foreign land. This, to them, is good marriage. Good husband. But this leads to separation that creates distance between man and woman.

Distance and intimacy: In ancient South Sudanese cattle keeping communities, men who took cattle herds to distance places for good pastures and spent a lot of time away from their homes. They were generally polygamous. Men with less cattle stayed homes and were generally monogamous.

This trend, unfortunately, has continued today. After 2005 and when South Sudanese started receiving salaries, families of well-to-do young men and women rented apartments in Uganda, Khartoum (Sudan) and Kenya.

The reasons? Simple: to have access to better education, health service and security. Men were generally, and continued to be, left in the “field” in South Sudan – laboring to raise money to cover rental, tuition fees and medication.

So literally, the men lived as unmarried fellows in South Sudanese cities. Biological needs therefore force men (sometimes through temptations) to marry again, again and again – but only to end up sending the new wives to foreign cities – as no woman wanted to be left “suffering in South Sudan.”

Marriage has no meaning if you don’t stay with your wife/husband. Another scenario is the energy there in the body. Those days, when South Sudan economy was ‘booming’ for everyone, some dudes would wire $1,000 to a nucleus family. So the women were eating very well. Men were also eating in Juba.

Rich men of those days would order meat as they leave offices, I am told, making phone calls to public joints, bars and hotels. The instructions to the waitresses on the end were clearly stated, recurring every day, in loud phone calls; ‘boil a kilogram of goat meat, roast another kilogram (of goat ribs) and reserve a table in the corner.’

After taking two bottles of beer and chewing the meat, they would retire home and make romantic phone calls to their wives. But with distance between the husband and the wife, that calorie was going to waste; resulting into protruding tummies. Extra energy got be deposed at least once in a while.

So this lack of sexual satisfaction therefore forced some men to look for new intimate partners at home. Some women are also alleged to have filed in the gaps in foreign cities by reaching out to students or whoever come-by. So polygamy satisfies sexual urges, hence the practice among educated South Sudanese men.

Education: The literacy gap between men and women is very wide in South Sudan. Most men (not all men) are educated compared to women. The men therefore end up marrying illiterate women. I believe there is a link between family dispute, misunderstanding, troubles; and the level of education for both partners. In the end, the men resort to marry (or trying their second luck) by looking for second, third educated girl.

Little education: ‘Illiteracy is bad but little education is worse’ goes a common South Sudanese proverb. Illiteracy is not the same as little education. An illiterate person doesn’t know how to read and write. On the other hand, a person with primary school report card/certificate, birth certificate or a secondary school report card (not a certificate of education) has little education.

People with little education know how to spend money lavishly, they turn to have no knowledge on saving, they see no value in accumulating little resources (from $1 to $10,000) to afford a goal and they don’t understand what looking into future really means; to them, the future is the next day of wages/salaries.

A person with little education, nevertheless, knows the direction to shops selling expensive items like golden necklace, she/he knows how to dress a sitting room, she/he knows where the giant, smart TV screen, latest smart phone (iPhone) and beautiful cars are sold.

She/he finishes monthly budget on time. Some South Sudanese educated men married to beauties with little education therefore resort to polygamy to give life a second, third meaning. A chance.

Lack of Sex Education: Many South Sudanese got their education in foreign countries and are scared of polygamy. But lack of sex education results into unplanned marriages particularly among young women. Unwanted, often refer to as ‘accidental,’ pregnancies are common.

We, South Sudanese, are generally pro-life. We treat all human beings, including sperms/ovaries and the fetus, with the right to breathing. What we don’t question is the quality of that life? A street child due to lack of food at home? As such, educated men who had sexual intercourse for pleasures end up marrying two or three wives due to lack of safe sex.

Pride & Wealth: In many South Sudanese communities wealth is displayed through the number of wives and children. Extended family is a source of pride. Some ‘rich’ South Sudanese are in polygamous marriages to attain that standing in their communities. Though I don’t condone this factor, I strongly believes it plays greater role in today’s polygamy marriages.

Other cultural reasons for marrying more wives like avoiding nagging women, defense for the family/clan, producing more offspring for the tribe and marrying for deceased brothers are not common today.

Therefore, I challenge South Sudanese women and feminists to answer some of the above factors in order to narrow the gap and fight polygamous marriages. Ask yourself: can my husband stay in Juba, for example, cooking for himself (or eating from restaurants), washing his cloths, dressing his bed and having no children to send to buy airtime from the nearby shop and expect him to remain loyal, literally single??? This is one of the million questions.

(Disclaimer: These are purely my thoughts and not linked to my family and my wife or wives. I’m sure one or two South Sudanese will learn a lesson after reading this piece.)


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