The definition of the plural marriage contrasts polygamy or polygyny (two or more wives for one husband) and polyandry (two or more husbands for one wife). There have been various societies with polygamous households within continental African populations, and there have been some cases of polyandry in India and the South Pacific islands. Does plural marriage uniformly aim at or succeed in subordinating women? Some authors assert that the effect of polygamy is obviously to degrade the position of women, but others state that this arrangement continues to give a woman a considerable amount of independence.

One can describe polygamy by two characteristics: (1) its incidence and (2) its intensity. For those societies with polygamous husbands, incidence is measured by the relative number of married males ...

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