Bigamy vs Polygamy
Marriage is a very old civilizational tool devised to permit sex between a man and a woman and also to allow for raising a family. Marriage has both a social as well as legal sanction and is still the backbone of all modern societies and cultures. It serves as the basis of a building block by giving birth to a family. In the name of marriage, there are many different practices being followed in different cultures. While we all know about polygamy that has religious sanction in Muslim religion, there is a practice called bigamy that is unlawful and looked down upon in most cultures of the world. Many people cannot appreciate the differences between bigamy and polygamy because of etymological reasons. This article attempts to make the picture clear for all such readers.
Many men marry a woman after their first marriage without informing their spouses. This is called bigamy or the practice of keeping two wives where the first one is the legally wedded wife and the 2nd one having no legal status or just like a concubine. Such a relationship is illegal in the western world and most of the other parts of the world too. In all such instances, the man who gets married a second time is the culprit as he does not inform the legally wedded wife about his intentions and keeps the two wives away from each other. While monogamy or having a single spouse is the order of the day and is found universally in every society or culture, there are men who enter into a marriage like relationship with a second woman after having married legally with another woman earlier. Whether or not the man obtained the consent of the first wife is immaterial in the eyes of the bigamy laws and 2nd marriage is considered illegal and void by most countries. It is only in Muslim countries that bigamy is permitted under the law.
Polygamy is a marriage that may have a single husband with several wives (polygyny), a single wife with many husbands (polyandry), and group marriage with many husbands and wives having sexual access to each other. Such arrangements are not very common in modern societies and cultures though polygamy with a tradition of keeping several wives is legally permitted in Muslim countries. In Muslim law, a man is allowed to marry up to 4 women and all of them are legally wedded wives of the man. However, in modern times, polygamy is an exception rather than a tradition and most people stick to monogamy. In Muslim world, a man may or may not be required to obtain the consent of his wife to marry again.
What is the difference between Bigamy and Polygamy?
• Bigamy is not a religious practice and not sanctioned anywhere in the world. It is the practice of entering into a marriage like relationship with a second woman after first marriage by men.
• Polygamy is a situation where a man may have several wives or a woman may have several husbands. Group marriages with several husbands and wives with sexual access to all members also classify as polygamy.
• Polygamy is permitted in Muslim world with a religious sanction to a man to keep up to 4 wives.
• However, in modern times, polygamy is seen only as an exception rather than as a tradition.