The Weekender, November 4th, 1955
[The Weekender, the publication from which this extract of an article is taken, seems to have been a rather salacious English language magazine published in the 1950s, featuring prominent photographs of women in bikinis. Any more information on the publication would be gratefully received.]
Polygamy recently posed a perplexing problem for the protocol experts in Washington. Pakistan's former Premier, Mr. Mohamed Ali, now Ambassador to the United States, announced that he was taking two wives to America. However, Pakistani officials subsequently told Washington's tittering hostesses and panicky diplomats that Madame Ambassador No. 1. Begum Hamida, will stay in New York, leaving the social whirl of the capital to Madame Ambassador No. 2, Madame Aliya the envoy's former secretary.
What does Mr. Mohamed Ali think about polygamy?
He was reported to have told a London newspaperman: "Polygamy is much preferable to divorce. It is a better system than yours.
"UNLIKE DIVORCE IT RESPECTS THE SENTIMENTS OF THE FIRST WIFE AND ENABLES HER TO RETAIN HER STATUS AND DIGNITY.
"Divorce is rare in Pakistan. In most cases of temperamental incompatibility a man takes a second wife."
A suggestion that Western people would object on the grounds that such a solution was not Christian produced the retort: "Neither is the Western divorce rate. If there had been a divorce, nothing would have been said. But because I respected my first wife, I have been attacked."
A British Judge, however, favours polygamy for totally different reasons. Polygamy, to him, is a solution for the problem of the numerical inequality in the sexes.
Mr. Justice Gerald Sparrow. who recently returned to England after 23 years in Siam, and who is now. 60, declared: "Unless we come to it, thousands of women who now have to lead unwomanly lives will remain unhappy."
"At present we have about a million women in Britain who cannot have husbands. It is a tragedy. Many of these women suffer terribly from frustration."
But Mr. Sparrow himself has decided to settle for only one wife, a pretty Siamese whom he married secretly.
And what do Malaya's women think about polygamy? Recently we had Mrs. Shirin Fozdar, the ardent feminist, launching a strong attack against the practice.
IN AN OPEN LETTER TO SINGAPORE'S CHIEF MINISTER, MR. DAVID MARSHALL, SHE CALLED ON HIS GOVERNMENT TO REMOVE "THE INJUSTICES DONE TO WOMEN".
She added: "Is it any wonder, therefore, that children in their teens take up a hostile attitude to society and its established law and order?
"These are children from homes where their mothers are suffering from injustice because the men have asserted the right to practice polygamy and as a result keep their wives in constant mental anguish.
"After years of faithful service a wife may find the affections of her husband transferred to some younger candidate.
"Not even a formal ceremony is required to bring the second and subsequent wives into the home, and these secondary wives are expected to share in the man's property and are protected by law."
This strange and mediaeval custom flourishes not only in Malaya but also in other parts of the world. Multiple marriage, in one form or another, has always been practiced among the more primitive peoples.
Instead of being regarded as a licentious custom or as a manifestation of moral laxity or form of self-indulgence, or an evidence of a total disrespect for women's feelings, it is often looked upon by the primitive society as a laudable ideal and a virtue.
Polygamy is highly developed in Africa, and it is also well established among Australian aborigines and in parts of Melanesia.
It is a custom of great antiquity among the Semites who transmitted it to Aryan India and it was retained in Islam.
AMONG MANY PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, ESPECIALLY THE SOUTH CHINESE, POLYGAMY IS FREQUENTLY FOUND. THE PRACTICE HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE CHINESE CONCERN FOR HEIRS.
If a man had no progeny his legal wife, he took another and a third if the second failed to come up to expectations . . .
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Last modified: 25 April 2001