The whole having more than one wife thing seems to really bother traditional/conservative Americans, and is something that often is pointed to in African culture that is keeping their countries from development. While women in Africa are in some ways are subjugated to second class status, they are also admired and in a way worshiped as the givers of life and men live their lives to provide for their women.

African men have taken multiple wives since before westerners arrived. But the most common reason I hear is that there are more women than men, so some men need to marry more than one woman. This is still true in Sub Sahara Africa because of the history of colonization and slavery.

During the days of African colonization, Westerners used slave/forced labor to build much of their massive wealth from ivory, wood, rubber and other raw materials. They used mostly males for these tasks who worked under conditions which caused many to die. In the Congo region, colonized by Belgium, around 10 million Africans died working as porters, rubber gathers, slaves, or just killed for being in the way of “development”. Because of the massive death tolls amongst African men, there were many more women than men, especially at the start of the 20th century.

At the same time, people here are in shock that homosexuality is legal in the US. In conversations I often contrast the approaches our countries take to these two different problems to share Peace Corps goal of sharing our culture.

In Cameroon marrying more than one woman is legal for men. However, homosexuality is illegal. In the US, men can only marry one woman, but homosexuality is legal/decriminalized.

I argue with my Cameroonean friends that neither law is better than the other. After all, why should it bother them if two people of the same sex decide to get together. And why should it bother Americans if two or more women willfully marry the same man.

The trend points to the decline of polygamy and the acceptance of homosexuality in the world. But as long as women are willing to marry men who are already married, I don’t think it should be a problem.

I then asked my friends if a woman should take multiple husbands, and they all just laughed.