More evidence that polygamy causes world poverty


How 50 Years of Exceptionalist Monogamy Powered Singapore’s Flourishing Economy


History of Polygamy in Singapore
Up until about 50 years ago, polygamy was not only legal in Singapore, it was also quite common. After independence from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore had high levels of unemployment and poverty.  70 percent of Singapore’s households lived in overcrowded conditions, and a third of its people subsisted  in slums on the city fringes.  Half of the population was illiterate.


The Last 50 Years

In the last 50 years, Singapore’s economy has soared while surrounding polygamous economies remain mired in poverty and malfunction.

Singapore’s economy has been ranked as the most open in the world, one of the least corrupt and most pro-business and has the third highest per capitia GDP  in the world

As recently as the 1950s, polygamy was considered a “privilege” that men were allowed to enjoy without legal or social persecution. It was only when the Women’s Charter was passed in 1961 that strict limits were put on the practice of one man having more than one wife.
Prior to the second half of the 20th Century, the status of men in Singapore was often related to the number of wives he had. Men who were wealthy and powerful could afford to maintain a household with many different wives, while poor men or those with lower social status typically would have only one wife or, more commonly, none at all.
This led to a type of societal instability because lower status men without wives were more willing to engage in risky behavior in order to achieve status, power or even sex. The result was a higher than normal murder rate, as well as an increase in rape, kidnapping of women, sexual slavery, and prostitution.
There also was a higher rate of substance abuse among lower-income men.

The Women’s Charter of 1961
The Women’s Charter of 1961 provided for the institution of monogamous marriages, as well as allowing for the individual rights of husbands and wives, the protection of the family, and the legal requirements for divorce and separation.
The law was championed by Madam Chan Choy Siong, who was the wife of former Cabinet Minister Ong Pang Boon. Madam Siong argued successfully that the existing laws that allowed polygamy violated the rights of women.
In a famously stirring speech to Parliament in 1961, Madam Siong stated: “Many men marry more than one wife. Therefore, women do not enjoy full equality in the home. They do not enjoy political equality. When they are helpless, they are abandoned by their husbands and deprived of their basic rights.”

Inequality Among the Sexes
Madam Siong and other supporters of the new law argued that polygamy increased competition for wives because married men were still considered marriageable among single women. This competition drove down the age of the first marriage for women and increased the average age gap between spouses.
Consequently, the supply of unmarried women was lower, so men would pursue younger women than they might normally pursue.
Supporters of the Women’s Charter also argued that Singapore’s existing laws that allowed polygamy had the effect of creating an environment in which men would use whatever connections they had – including financial and reciprocal bargaining with the families of single women – to compete with other men to obtain wives.

Social Consequences of Polygamy
This led to a suppression of personal freedoms for women and female children, cultural rigidity,  higher gender inequality, and a rise in domestic violence. Women suffered a loss of influence in household decision-making and, because the average age of first marriage was lower, an increase in fertility.
Another problem was competition between women within a polygamous household. Multiple wives tended to fall into the “senior” and “junior” categories, which naturally led to sexual competition between women for the favor of the husband.
Senior wives, who tended to be older, often found it difficult to compete against the youth and beauty of junior wives. At the same time, junior wives often were jealous of the perceived higher status of senior wives. This often led to much acrimony in the household.
Polygamy also was harmful to children born into these households. Due to the heightened competition and resulting disharmony, the welfare of children often was neglected.  Playing favorites among children has always wreaked mental havoc among all involved, not to imagine the effects of playing favorites among wives.
Supporters of the Women’s Charter pointed to the need for a woman to be regarded as the mistress of her own home, something that was impossible when she had to share a home and compete against other women for the attention and favor of the husband.

Benefits of Monogamy
Since the Women’s Charter was passed, there have been many positive changes to the typical home structure in Singapore. There is less pressure to bring younger brides to the marriage market, for one. Plus, the spousal age gap has narrowed, and there are fewer instances of men controlling – in the guise of protecting – women.
There also has been more gender equality and more natural fertility levels.

Muslim Polygamy in Singapore
Today, polygamy has been eliminated for most of the general population. But it is still allowed under Muslim law, although it is regulated.  Muslim men can take more than one wife only if they receive approval from a Kadi, a Muslim religious leader. According to the Registry of Muslim Marriages, a man seeking to take more than one wife must meet certain strict financial requirements and the process must be carefully reviewed by a Kadi. Both parties must be interviewed separately before the Kadi makes his final decision on whether or not to approve the marriage.


Hmmmmmm.  What could possibly go wrong with only the wealthy being allowed polygamy???  What could possibly go wrong with denying poor males access to marriageable females in the culture of their birth???  

341 thoughts on “More evidence that polygamy causes world poverty

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