Two per cent of population still live in polygamous house

Polygamy is banned across the world but still is rarely practised in some parts. A new study shows that only about two per cent of the global population lives in polygamous households and the share is under 0.5 per cent in the vast majority of countries.

In a report, the PEW Centre said there are certain limits to government administration of marriages. Religious or customary law governs marriages. This means that marriage is often under clerics or community leaders.

Sub-Saharan Africa

The report said that 11 per cent of the population in Sub Saharan Africa lives in such arrangements that include more than one spouse. It said that Polygamy was widespread in several countries in West and Central Africa. The report said that Burkina Faso reported 36 per cent of Polygamy, Mali 34 per cent and Nigeria 28 per cent. Polygamy is legal in these countries to some extent.

The PEW centre said that Muslims in these countries were more likely than others to live in polygamy arrangement. Apart from this, the report said that this practise was prevalent among folk religions and people who do not identify with a religion. It noted that 45 per cent of people who practice folk religions, 40 per cent Muslims and 24 per cent of Christians in Burkina Faso live in polygamous households. Chad is the only country where Christians, who account for 21 per cent, are more likely than Muslims (ten per cent) to live in polygamy.

Muslim majorities

The PEW said in the report that fewer than one per cent of Muslims live with more than one spouse in Pakistan, Afghanistan Bangladesh, Egypt and Iran. In Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries, polygamy is legal. The report says that Muslims who support 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.

Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament

Though Jews and Christians practised much earlier, Polygamy is not practised in recent centuries. However, they are still practised in some parts among Christians.


This refers to women having more than one husband. This type of practise is much rarer than polygamy and is mostly found among small and relatively isolated communities. Though polygamy laws are usually skewed in favor of allowing men to take multiple spouses, many countries have laws that speak for the rights of women.


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