Meet proud polygamous Man with 10 wives, 98 children, 568 grandchildren in Uganda

BY DIRAMAKINI

MUSA Hassaji is 67-year-old at that age you would call him pensioner, but as they say that is just a number, for now he can be described as a father of many nations this if the number of children he has sired are anything to go by.
In times of global crises, Musa's family is arguably the largest in his native Uganda and probably across the East African region. Musa is married to 10 wives and is a father of 98 children and has 568 grandchildren.

That is to say that each of his wives has given birth to at least nine children It is believed he started quite early, at 17 instead of being in High School Musa had sired his first child.

The polygamous man shares one house with all his wives but has built little other houses for his children around the vast compound he owns. “All of these people you see here are my family. I have fathered 98 children with 10 women,” he said proudly.

Some of his children are not only grown up but are also married, while the younger ones are still in school.

The irony to Musa’s story is that Musa himself was born into a family of only two children yet they struggled to make ends meet.

Despite being brought up in abject squalor and dropping out of school in Standard Six, Musa managed to get into business and turned his fortunes around.

“I became so wealthy that every family whose door I knocked and asked for a bride they immediately gave me,” he says.
His youngest wife Kakazi is younger than some of his grandchildren, adding that he can differentiate the children but does not know all their names.

Polygamy in Uganda

According to Catholics and Cultures, Polygamy, which has deep roots as a cultural practice and is still overtly a part of Muslim life in Uganda, is a neuralgic issue in Uganda.

Indeed, “traditional marriage” in Uganda includes polygamy, which is not illegal. Christian marriage would mean something different.

From a Catholic perspective, a Christian man can only marry one woman, and the Catholic churches appeared to work hard to guard that boundary.

Still, some volunteered that the practice remains fairly common, though usually sub-rosa, while others played down its frequency.

Often the existence of a second or even third wife and family would become public only at the funeral of the husband or father. (According to Pew research surveys, 31% of Ugandan Christian men claim to have more than one wife).

Ugandan interviewees often seemed to characterize it as a tendency built into men’s nature, but forbidden by the Church.

It was most firmly condemned if a man has children whom he fails to care for, but beyond that seems to elicit disappointment more than condemnation when it is discovered a man practices it.

That disappointment is especially deep if it was by a man who had a public role in the Church. One Ugandan man who asked about polygamy’s prevalence in the West was amused to learn that it is actually illegal there.

A member of Marriage Encounter said they work hard “to help couples understand the sacramental and holy nature of marriage better,” but that they were also a relatively small group.

One committed Catholic reported, “Some priests are not celibate, and have women and children. People know it commonly.”

For her, this is not ideal, or good, but the only reaction is that she tries to avoid them for confession because she feels uncomfortable in light of this, and asks around for the name of a priest who is celibate. Others suggested that it happens, but that he and others are deeply aggrieved at word of it.

Urban Ugandans, including young women, said that female circumcision, once common in some indigenous cultures, is rare, limited to a few rural tribes. The government has strongly discouraged it.

Polygamy is rare around the world

According to Pew Research Center, Polygamy is rare throughout most of the world. In the U.S., having spouse like relationships with more than one person under the same roof was criminalized in 1882.

Today, people in the U.S. are rarely prosecuted for living with multiple romantic partners, but every state has laws against getting married while already being married to someone else.

In February 2020, Utah passed a bill to reduce the penalties for adults who voluntarily live in polygamous relationships, making the practice an infraction, a low-level offense that is not punishable with jail time.

In other parts of the world, including swaths of the Middle East and Asia, polygamy is legal but not practiced widely.
And in some countries-particularly in a segment of West and Central Africa known as the polygamy belt-the practice is frequently legal and widespread.

A Pew Research Center report about living arrangements in 130 countries and territories published in 2019 analyzed the number of people residing in polygamous households, as well as other types of households.

Here are some key findings from that report, and from a separate study of customs and laws around the world.How they did this.

Only about 2% of the global population lives in polygamous households, and in the vast majority of countries, that share is under 0.5%.

Polygamy is banned throughout much of the world, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which has said that “polygamy violates the dignity of women,” called for it to “be definitely abolished wherever it continues to exist.” 

But there often are limits to government administration of marriages. In many countries, marriages are governed by religious or customary law, which means that oversight is in the hands of clerics or community leaders.

Polygamy is most often found in sub-Saharan Africa, where 11% of the population lives in arrangements that include more than one spouse.

Polygamy is widespread in a cluster of countries in West and Central Africa, including Burkina Faso, (36%), Mali (34%) and Nigeria (28%).

In these countries, polygamy is legal, at least to some extent. Muslims in Africa are more likely than Christians to live in this type of arrangement (25% vs. 3%), but in some countries, the practice also is widespread among adherents of folk religions and people who do not identify with a religion.

For example, in Burkina Faso, 45% of people who practice folk religions, 40% of Muslims and 24% of Christians live in polygamous households.

Chad is the only country in this analysis where Christians (21%) are more likely than Muslims (10%) to live in this type of arrangement.

Many of the countries that permit polygamy have Muslim majorities, and the practice is rare in many of them. Fewer than 1% of Muslim men live with more than one spouse in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Egypt-all countries where the practice is legal at least for Muslims.

Polygamy is also legal in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other neighboring countries, but these were not included in the study due to data limitations.

Muslim supporters of polygamy often cite Quran verse 4:3, which instructs men to take as many wives as they can take care of, up to four, and they also point out that the Prophet Muhammad had multiple wives.

Historians have noted that Islamic guidance on polygamy was issued amid wars in Arabia in the seventh century, when there were many widows and orphans requiring financial support, and that polygamy created a system for them to be cared for. To this day, polygamy is most common in places where people, and particularly men, tend to die young.

The Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament refer to several instances of accepted plural marriages, including by Abraham, Jacob and David.

However, the practice was disavowed by these groups in the Middle Ages, and polygamy generally has not been condoned by Jews or Christians in recent centuries.

Still, polygamy sometimes was practiced by certain Christian sects, including by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called Mormons) in the U.S. until the late 1800s. Some Mormon splinter groups still practice polygamy.

Religion often plays a role in how polygamy is governed and practiced within a single country. In Nigeria, for example, polygamous marriage is not allowed at the federal level, but the prohibition only applies to civil marriages. 

Twelve northern, Muslim-majority states do recognize these unions as Islamic or customary marriages. In India, Muslim men are allowed to marry multiple women, while men of other groups are not.

However, in countries where polygamy is common, it often is practiced by people of all faiths. That’s the case in Gambia, Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso, where at least one-in-ten people in every religious group measured live in households that include husbands with more than one spouse.

Is polygamy moral?

Polygamy usually takes the form of polygyny-when a man marries multiple women. Polyandry, which refers to wives having more than one husband, is even rarer than polygamy and mostly documented among small and relatively isolated communities around the world.

While polygamy laws are usually skewed in favor of allowing men-but not women-to take multiple spouses, many countries’ laws also speak to the rights of women.

In Burkina Faso, for example, where polygamy is common, spouses must agree that a marriage will be polygamous at its outset for the husband to be allowed to take another wife in the future.

In Djibouti, a judge records the existing wives’ opinions on any new marriages and investigates the husband’s socioeconomic situation before approving a marriage contract with an additional wife.

One-in-five U.S. adults believe that polygamy is morally acceptable, a recent Gallup poll found. This share has almost tripled (from 7%) since the question was first asked in 2003, but is still among the least accepted behaviors Gallup asks about.

Self-described liberals are much more likely than conservatives to see polygamy as morally acceptable (34% vs. 9%).

A Pew Research Center survey published in 2013 found that Muslims around the world are divided about polygamy.

While majorities in several sub-Saharan African countries and pluralities in parts of the Middle East describe polygamy as morally acceptable, Muslims living in Central Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe tend to say that polygamy is immoral. (Agencies)

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