Over the weekend, I read the biography of Ferdinand Oyono. He is a famous writer of Cameroonian ancestry who came from a polygamous home. His mother was a devout catholic, and upon learning that her husband (Oyono's father, a polygamist) was marrying a 2nd wife, promptly divorced him. I don't know when this incident took place, but might have been in the 30's or 40's. And during that time, you can imagine that divorce was met with condemnation, so for a lady to have resolutely rejected polygamy in an African culture, where multiple marriages is sanctioned, her decision to end her marriage could be considered a rarity.
Over to another tragic love story about Camara Laye when his wife, Marie, upon being released from jail divorced him because he had married a second wife. Her decision was justified because she was Roman Catholic. Her husband's excuse of being prompted to bring in a second wife, on account of his ill health (and even the woman admitted so in an interview that her husband was in poor health), the welfare of their children, the last born being 5 months old when the mother embarked on that ill-fated trip to Conarky from Dakar to visit her father) fell on deaf ears. Seun argued with me that the woman had options, that was why she left the marriage. Granted this was in the 70's but women's status in the society was stifled by our culture, sexism and a reluctance to compete with men, for fear of being branded a "stubborn woman"
In today's age, women have acquired visibility in the society. Some of them have traversed into men's domain and have been successful in that regard. Some major corporations in the country are run by female CEO's. This advancement is not just limited to the western world, but has spread to Africa. Sirleaf Johnson broke grounds when she became the first woman president in Liberia, the first of its kind in Africa, when even the USA, reknowned for its women's rights have not produced a female president (Is Hillary running in 2008)? So, this brings me to this question, why is it in today's age, there are quite a number of woman, including those who regard themselves as Christians would subject themselves to this arrangement? Ok, pardon me for a second, I lived in Nigeria, and I know of some people who practised polygamy, while attending Christian services. At that time, it never dawned on me that it was wrong, because my culture had completely taken over my psyche. As I have grown older, and gotten involved in Christianity and have been exposed to stories of women divorcing their polygamous husband, because of their religion, I would think that others in the same boat would adamantly reject it.
So, I was surprised to read this interviews of women, on NigeriaWorld, who, when asked if they would accept a rival as a second wife, confessed rather reluctantly, that they would accept the situation. The topic was about chiildlessness in the marriage, and while one of them told the reporter that she would pray over it, her answer was no different from the rest of her contemporaries who admitted a reluctance in accepting the situation. One even told the reporter (one might consider her proposal a brazen act, since childlessness in our society is usually regarded as a woman's fault) that she would make sure that it wasnt her fault, but in the end, it boild down to an acceptance.
Earlier on when I posted my short story titled "Double Tragedy" which gave one an insight into the plight of widows in Nigeria, one of the respondents, wondered why any woman would willingly accept to be a slave in their marriage. I thought times have changed back home, apparently, there are some women back home who are still stuck in the past.
You can access the interview on this link.