Shafiq R Khan

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Polygamy, Sister wives and Morganatic marriage

Polygamy in the most basic sense refers to a marriage that involves multiple spouses, instead of two. Polygamy has been practiced for centuries but has been eliminated in most modern societies. There are a few different types of polygamy. A union that involves one woman and two or more men is correctly termed polyandry, while a union involving one man and two or more women is called polygyny.
The latter arrangement is by far the most prevalent demographic. While polygamy is illegal in the United States and other countries, it is still practiced in many areas. In fact, there is a movement that goes hand in hand with the same sex marriage movement in the U.S. that hopes to include polygamy in the redefinition of marriage.
Bigamy is sometimes used interchangeably with polygamy, although they are not necessarily the same thing. Bigamy technically means having two spouses at the same time, and the term is frequently used to describe two separate marriages, often when one spouse does not know about the other. Bigamy can also refer to having two spouses in a single household, but such arrangements are generally referred to as polygamy.
The preferred term in this and similar debates is plural marriage, rather than polygamy. Within the poly culture, words like polyfidelity may also be used. The terms polygamy, polyandry, and polygyny are often seen as being anthropological in nature, and not especially effective for describing in detail the different types of poly relationships.
The concept of polygamy, specifically polygyny, tends to be a fertile issue for controversial debate. While some claim polygamy is a religious tenet, others claim it is a simple matter of choice, one which they believe should be open to all free people. However, the definition of free people often includes minor children, which leads to the other side of the argument. Those who are against polygamy, or plural marriage, believe it is an unhealthy living arrangement, due in part to headlines and news stories that reflect the most extreme cases.
Other concerns are centered on the potential for legalized polygamy to lead to an unbalanced society. Simple math leads to this conclusion. If one man marries two or more women, it may leave two or more other men with no potential mate.
Sisterwives are women who are married, as a group, to the same man. As a general rule, sisterwives have equal status in the relationship, each bringing their own unique talents and personalities into the marriage. The use of the term “sisterwife” varies; some people describe themselves as sisterwives, for example, while in other cultures the relationship between women in a group or polygamous marriage is not expressed with this term.
In countries where polygamy is illegal, sisterwives often use this term to express solidarity with each other, cementing the idea that they are a family, even if they are not legally related. Group and polygamous marriages in cultures where this practice is frowned upon get around restrictions in a variety of ways. For example, a man might marry and divorce a series of women who all take his name and identify as sisterwives, or people might choose to wed in private ceremonies which have no legal standing.
In some cultures, the first wife has a special status, even if she identifies as a sisterwife. This reflects her long-running relationship, and it may entitle her to special privileges. In other cases, sisterwives do not distinguish between each other, and the identity of the first wife may be a private matter which is shared among family members only, to avoid singling her out in public.
Marriages which involve more than two individuals take a wide number of forms, and they are often associated with religious or cultural traditions. The participants in such a marriage generally negotiate their own personal boundaries and beliefs, often reinforced by religious values surrounding marriage and spousal duty. Some anthropologists believe that there are distinct benefits to polyamorous marriage, especially for the sisterwives themselves, who enjoy the support and companionship of a group of like-minded women in their daily lives. Others worry that polygamous marriage is exploitative, especially for women and girls.
Technically, sisterwives are in what is known as a polygynous marriage, meaning a multiple marriage with one man and an assortment of women. In a polyandrous marriage, one women would be married to an assortment of men, who could presumably identify as brother husbands, if they choose. Some anthropologists use the term “polygamy” to refer specifically to a type of marriage in which there is a mixture of wives and husbands; for example, a women might be married to two men and one woman. In what is known as a group or circular marriage, a group of people are married to each other, with no primary spouse around which the marriage revolves; the women in such a marriage may also choose to call themselves sisterwives.
Morganatic marriage is a marriage between two people of different ranks in which the person of lower rank is not granted titles, estates, and other privileges of rank। The tradition of morganatic marriage is largely associated with Germany, although it crops up in the news now and then; the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker-Bowles, for example, raised global interest in the concept। In that particular instance, a morganatic marriage was not chosen, although the option may have been discussed।
The marriage is still considered legally binding; statutes against polygamy, for example, apply to people in a morganatic marriage. However, the person of lower rank will not be granted any royal titles, and children of the union will not be given titles either. Since a morganatic marriage represents a clear disadvantage in a number of ways, the marriages are relatively rare, and great love or passion is usually associated with them.
The term is derived from the phrase matrimonium ad morganaticam, meaning “marriage for the morning gift.” The term refers to a tradition in many Germanic countries, in which the bride is given a dowry of money and property to ensure that she and her children remain financially secure. In the case of a morganatic marriage, the “morning gift” is all the bride gets, and this is clearly stated in the marriage contract. Because a morganatic marriage deprives children of their rights as heirs, the arrangement is illegal in many regions of the world.
The term is generally used to discuss royal marriages. In this case, the marriage is approved by members of the royal family, an important prerequisite to a valid royal marriage, but the status of one of the partners is considered unsatisfactory. In German history, the morganatic marriage was often used by a king who wanted to marry a lady-in-waiting or another woman of lower rank after the Queen had passed away. Since royal heirs would have already been established from the previous marriage, the issue of inheritance was a moot issue.
In some cases, a courtesy title may be offered as part of a morganatic marriage. In this case, the spouse of lower rank is given a title as respect, but the title has no valid meaning. As soon as the ranking spouse dies, the courtesy title will be dropped. Such a title may only be offered by the ruling monarch.
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