Polygamy in South Africa : an exploratory study of women's experiences.
Four Muslim senior wives, 35 years and older, were interviewed about their experiences in a polygamous marriage. The Theory of Gender and Power was used to understand some of the emerging themes in the gendered relationships between men and women in polygamous relationships. Thematic content analysis revealed the overarching theme of power. The women expressed helplessness in the face of a practice that they consider objectionable on the one hand, but that they feel compelled to tolerate because their religion permits it. In order to cope with their pain there was a need to assign blame for their husband's remarriage. Blame was attributed to both internal and external causes. Senior wives equate polygamy with "infidelity" and therefore perceived it as an act of betrayal, Consequently, this led to feelings of anger, rejection, pain and jealousy, and subsequently the nonacceptance of the junior wife into the marital dyad. The women reported feelings of loss with regard to the marital relationship, such as loss of financial support, trust, self esteem, identity, dignity and sense of self. For these senior wives, polygamy resulted in loss of sexual exclusivity, shared intimacy and security, which was accompanied by feelings of humiliation and degradation. The women believed that polygamy resulted in straining the relationship between children and their fathers. Children were reported to have experienced emotional, behavioural and academic problems.