Malawi reacts to intentions of banning polygamy

Leaders in the faith community in Malawi have described government’s intentions to ascribe a law to ban polygamy as against religious and cultural beliefs. They were responding to reports that Malawi will soon have a law that will deem it criminal to have more than three or four wives.

Underground polygamy
A grouping of Christian faithful, the Malawi Council of Churches (MCM), said the move will not only deny people of their religious and cultural rights, but will make the case worse as the practice will go underground.

“We feel this will not sort anything as intended by government. Cases of HIV and AIDS may get even worse,” said a reverend in the organisation.

The Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) also said the development will work contrary and that it is against religious teachings in its faith. A spokesman for the MAM said that with about 6% more women than men in Malawi, if polygamy were banned, many women would be left without a husband and become prostitutes.

As long as a man can equally take care of his women and children and make them evenly happy, followers say Allah allows polygamy. The Southern region, where most Muslims come from, also culturally practices polygamy.
Attention problems
Surprisingly, after their disapproval, President Bingu wa Mutharika said polygamy was denying women their basic rights. Government says the move will help curb rising spread of HIV and AIDS cases.

“How do you have more than one wife and be happy about it?” he questioned a gathering during the consecration of a Catholic priest. Montfort Sitima was made auxiliary Bishop of the Blantyre Archdiocese last week, in the capital Lilongwe.

Gender minister Patricia Kaliati said the ban was necessary to prevent women from being abused in polygamous relationships.

She said problems occurred because men could not give their full attention to more than one woman. “When a man has two, three, four wives, they are not co-operative – one will be the loved one,” she said. 

Malawi ‘AIDS success story’
Meanwhile the Principle Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) responsible for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS, Dr. Mary Shaba, early this month said the pandemic was impressively getting lower.

“Malawi is a success story where prevalence rate has reduced dramatically. We are now hovering at 12% from 14% a few years back,” she told journalists during a conference organised by the Journalists Association against AIDS (JournAIDS).

Malawian and Zambian non-governmental organisations came together to brainstorm ways to share and enhance best practices in the face of HIV and AIDS in the two countries.

Mutharika argued women should be accorded their full potential and not be part and parcel of polygamous unions. Mutharika himself just tied the knot to his party member Callista Chimombo.

His first wife, Ethel Mutharika, died of cancer some years back.

Sources: AfricaNews, BBC

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