Mali being a Muslim country it is legally accepted for a man to have up to four wives and in daily life you’ll find that many have two and some indeed do have four.
It’s allowed by the Koran and generally accepted behavior. It’s just for the men, not for the women and many a man will come up with all kind of reasons why it’s just for them:
– men are really jealous, it wouldn’t be good if they would have to share their wives
– it’s a man’s responsibility to take care of as many women as he is (financially) capable of
– my father had more than one women, so I will have to have more than one also
– it’s written in the Koran
– I’m obliged to marry at least one woman of my own culture and religion also
and so on…
Daily life reality is that the women are just as jealous as the men and that most men have to deal with a pile of problems amongst their wives and their children.
In the past – and still today in certain families and on the countryside – it was the father who picked the first wife for his son. These arranged marriages usually aren’t based on any form of love. Sometimes even respect is lacking. The second wife on the other hand will be chosen by the man himself and in general this woman will be the one ‘most loved’, as the first wife will have ‘the oldest rights’. Number three and four are quite often ‘added’ to take care of the growing workload.
Times are changing, in some families a man is allowed only one woman, progressive parents leave the partner choice to their children and some youngsters decide to rebel against the system, no more accepting the women chosen for them. Quite often it’s these rebels who consciously choose to marry just one woman. They might come from families where the destructive effects of polygamy have taken their toll: women using black magic against each other and each other’s children, there often being a lack of money and food, and children from different mothers fighting one another as a result of jealousy, backbiting and their place on the social ladder of the family.
Most of the time the father, the head of the family didn’t realize that things – including his luck – could change and that an expending family demands more money. Having the money available for another marriage was just enough to decide upon it. That children would be born and needed to be fed was forgotten about, that just happened. And that even a well running business could go down was never taking into consideration.
A man having four wives and over twenty children on his courtyard is no exception. The number of children might even go up to fifty…
Mali being a 85% Muslim country, there’s little chance that the government will change the law on short terms.
Some youngsters have learned from the choices of their parents, others will have to find out for themselves…