Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Polygamy in PNG

Polygamy is a fact of PNG life.  While not acceptable in the Christian community, it is widely practiced in our area of the country.  The number of wives a man has is directly proportional to power and money.  If you are a "big man" or a wealthy, you are expected to have more than one wife.  More wives equals more women work the gardens and watch the pigs and bear children.

We often see the negative consequences of polygamy.  STIs or HIV shared between husband and wife and wife.  Wife number 1 chops wife number 2 because she is angry that her husband married someone else.  Or wife number 2 stabs husband.  You get the idea.

Dr. Erin had an interesting family situation in clinic the other day.  Here is her story...

"A young mom walks into my exam room carrying a small child in a baby bilum.  She is closely followed by a 30ish female and a 4 year old girl.  As we say hi, the medical student asks me if the woman holding the child, who doesn't look more than 15, is really the mom.  So we ask.  She tells us yes and doesn't seem shy about it so we take the opportunity to ask some more questions.  We learned quite a bit.  The mom really is only 15 and her baby is 6 months old.  She has been married a little over a year to a guy much older than her who has many wives.  Currently she is one of only 4 wives, but he had others who left him when he got new wives.  The 30ish female was not a wife, but the daughter of the 15 year old's husband.  With her was her 3 year old daughter.  So we had in front of us a mom and her small son.  The son being the half brother to the 30 year old lady, and an uncle to the 3 year old girl.  It was kind of crazy."  
I guess that would also make the 15 year old the step-mother to the 30 year old, and a step-grandmother to the 3 year old.  Do you follow that?

Erin continues, "This family isn't the only family like this in PNG.  Polygamy allows men to marry as many women as he wants or can afford, and the wives become younger and younger as he gets older.  Pray for women here, who often have no choice in who they are forced to marry.  Pray for their protection physically from the abuse that is too common in marriages.  Pray for parents to not sell their daughters to a man who is willing to pay a lot of money, but that they will allow their daughters to choose a man they love to marry.  Pray for Christians to take the lead in this and not give in to cultural pressures."

My first responses to reading this story were a combination of anger, disgust, and sorrow.  Wow, this is messed up.  But Erin has the better idea.  We need to pray... pray for transformation of lives, families, and culture in PNG.

"But since there is so much immorality, each man should have is own wife, and each woman her own husband."
~ 1 Corinthians 7:2

1 comment:

  1. Wow is right. We get quite a bit of information from Genesis about Abraham and his grandson Jacob to see many of the negative consequences of polygamy. Men...can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em :).