As the product of one marriage, a participant in several others, and a student of the subject in a terrific university Gender Studies unit called ‘Intimacy, Love and Friendship’, I feel as if I’ve been alternatively mooning over and moaning about matrimony for virtually ever.
And now, with what is variously called ‘gay marriage’, ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘marriage equality’ very much on the political agenda in Australia, plus a push from some Muslims for what some call polygamous and others polygynous marriage in Australia, it’s time to put my matrimoney where my mouth is.
Starting with polygamy/polygyny, in which my interest has been aroused by a recent Sydney Morning Herald article headed ‘Secondwife.com gains traction in Australia: founder’.
The story made the point that, though polygamy/polygyny is illegal in Australia, founder of the UK-based site secondwife.com, Azad Chaiwala, says he believes that here, as elsewhere, ‘a growing number of Muslims are seeking second marriages in religious ceremonies,’ and that the ‘social taboo’ against the practice is fading away.
Keysar Trad, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, was quoted as endorsing this opinion, saying that he had sought a second wife for decades, and that his wife of 30 years supports him in his search, as ‘she would rather he have a halal relationship with a second woman than an affair.’
‘My wife is a saint,’ he added, ‘she’s one of the best women out there, but I think it’s human nature, God put this drive very strongly inside males so that we can be providers and supporters for more than one woman.’
But executive director of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, Joumanah El Matrah, disagreed, calling Koranic ‘equal treatment’ justifications for polygamy ‘antiquated and demeaning’ and claiming that many Muslims are convinced that it is impossible to treat two, let alone three or four women, equally.
And I have to say I couldn’t agree more with Ms. El Matrah. Take that well-known not to say notorious ‘moderate’ Muslim leader, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, for example. In what seems to me the highly unlikely event that his current sole spouse Rosmah Mansour would permit him to take another one, two or even three women in addition to her in matrimony, how on earth could he treat them all the same in matrimoney?
Would he somehow have to find a way to create another 1MDB scam so as to skim-off US6 million for each of the others to spend on shopping so as to treat them equally with Rosmah?
Or would he have to settle for splitting the next US6 million shopping budget into equal parts for each wife?
Then there’s the question of status. Would they all be equally entitled to call themselves First Lady of Malaysia, or what?
In short, this so-called ‘equal treatment’ clause is not only nonsense in and of itself, but also by virtue of the fact that it fundamentally denies women the sexual equality to which, as I and many fellow Australians and the United Nations would argue, everybody is entitled.
If a heterosexual man, Muslim or otherwise, is free to marry between one and four heterosexual women, then surely it is by definition only fair and just that a heterosexual woman should be free to marry from one to four men.
And the same principle clearly holds for homosexual women wishing to marry fellow lesbians, homosexual men keen to wed fellow gays, and so on and on for people of all sexes and genders.
Furthermore, just as matrimony/matrimoany/matrimoney is none of the business of religion, society or the state, but a matter of natural justice, whether people marry monogamously or otherwise is none of anybody else’s affair either.
It seems to me especially ridiculous that in Australia, as in many other similar somewhat liberal democracies, formal marriage to more than one partner at a time is a crime, but informal relationships involving more than two people, like adulterous affairs, spouse-swapping and polyamorous co-habitation, to name just a few of many, are perfectly legal.
As, indeed, thank goodness, are such other practices that many perfectly happily-married couples employ to prevent the inevitable monotony of monogamy from souring into mutual borenogamy or outright monughamy, like so-called ‘open’ marriage in which both partners agree they are free to take lovers either outside their core relationship, or to include them inside it, or both.
Or, if you like, to engage in the apparently paradoxical practice of straying together for the purpose of more pleasurably staying together.
To some this might sound far too free and equal, not to mention risky, for words. But on the other hand successful practitioners of it strenuously argue that it sure beats settling for one or more of the all-too-evidently prevalent downsides of monogamous matrimony, like the aforementioned matrimoany or its even more dreadful and dreary close relative, martyrmony.