Reason #1 to prefer monogamy to polygamy: Inbreeding.
Doctors and family members interviewed by New Times say up to 20 children from families in the polygamist community are currently afflicted with the condition that requires full-time attention from caregivers. Victims suffer a range of symptoms, including severe epileptic seizures, inability to walk or even sit upright, severe speech impediments, failure to grow at a normal rate, and tragic physical deformities.
"They are in terrible shape," says Dr. Kirk A. Aleck, director of the Pediatric Neurogenetics Center at St. Joseph's Hospital. Aleck is a geneticist who participated along with Tarby and others in the groundbreaking study of several polygamous families with fumarase deficiency in the late 1990s.
There is no cure for the disease, which impedes the body's ability to process food at the cellular level.
"But...", you say, "that's just one community". Except the same problems exist halfway across the world in Turkey. Different religion. Different culture. Same result:
Ayla has recently uncovered a disturbing side effect of polygamy and inbreeding.
Repeated intermarrying within families, typically between first and second cousins, has produced abnormally high rates of children with Downs Syndrome and Mediterranean anaemia.
Hmm... let's try a third continent:
Often it is not a question of remarriage but simply of inheritance, a widow being automatically transferred as wife to the man designated by the rules of succession. This implies a certain weakness or even the non-existence of prohibitions on marriages between affines; a man can inherit wives from his brother and from his father, although naturally his own mother is excluded. This practice, which is fairly frequent in Africa, flagrantly contravenes bothe the Christian and the Muslim teaching on incest.”
So much for that whole consent thingy. Wives are property....which brings us to reason #2.
2. Forced marriages and child brides.
Forced marriages, child brides, polygamy and arranged marriages between first cousins are some of the problems that Canadian immigration officials in Pakistan have to deal with.
3. Aging fathers + aging sperm = more birth defects. In societies where polygamy is common, men often continue to have children into their old age. Not only are older men unlikely to live long enough to ensure their latter born offspring are provided for, but their children face a higher risk of birth defects.
In a monogamous marriage, fertility is limited - naturally - by a woman's waning fertility and eventually, her inability to conceive. Not so when an 80 year old man can marry (and impregnate) a 12 year old.
4. Welfare and immigration issues. From communities where half the residents are on welfare and the majority of children live below the poverty level to Muslim immigrants who repeatedly return home (where polygamy is legal) and then bring their wives back to North America to collect welfare and state medical benefits to smuggling of child brides (gotta do something about that incest problem!), it's pretty clear that the rosy scenario of a rich, benevolent man supporting multiple wives and many children doesn't quite live up to the advertising.
5. Cost of living/stability: it costs more to support 3 wives and 15 children than one wife and 2 childen. The greater the number of dependents, the worse the consequences of financial reverses.
Not all rich men stay rich for life. What happens to all those wives and children when Daddy loses his nest egg? (see previous item)
6. Human nature/jealousy. Few women want to share a man. For that matter, few men want to share a woman. Pretty much every article I read pointed out that the Koran says the first wife must agree to a multiple marriage. And they all said that this is ignored in practice. Why? (hint: see item #8)
7. Parental neglect/children growing up with no father in their lives. Not recognizing your children when you meet them in the street is not a good thing:
Mehmet Arslan Aga, a sprightly, pot-bellied, 64-year-old Kurdish village chieftain from Isuklar, seems an unlikely defender of monogamy as he has five wives, 55 children, 80 grandchildren and a small army of servants. But he insists that if he had his time again, he would only marry once.
Although his large number of wives underlines his powerful status, he has found it a challenge to build each wife a house far from the others to prevent them from competing and struggles to remember all of his children's names.
He recently saw two young boys fighting on the street and intervened, breaking up the fight and telling them they would bring shame on their families. "Don't you recognize me?" one of them said. "I'm your son."
His biggest headache, though, he says, stems from jealousy among the wives, the first of whom he married out of love. "My rule is to behave equally toward all of my wives," he said. "But the first wife was very, very jealous when the second wife came. When the third arrived, the first two created an alliance against her. So I have to be a good diplomat."
Apart from the need to play marital referee, Mehmet, who owns land and shops throughout the region, says the financial burden of so many offspring can be overwhelming. He explained, "When I go to the shoe shop, I buy 100 pairs of shoes at a time. The clerk at the store thinks I'm a shoe salesman and tells me to go visit a wholesaler."
Despite his fecund lifestyle, Mehmet Aga acknowledges that polygamy is an outmoded practice and has taken personal steps to ensure that it is coming to a halt in his village. He has banned his own sons from taking second wives and is educating his daughters; he will not allow them to become second wives. He claims that his situation derives from his ignorance and the need to make tribal alliances. "I was uneducated back then, and Allah commands us to be fruitful and multiply, but having so many wives can create problems. If you want to be happy, marry one wife."
8. Lack of consent/willingness from the first wife. An old movie quote comes to mind:
"But we had a deal!"
"I have altered our arrangement. Pray I do not alter it further".
9. Gross power imbalance. A man and a woman who marry have roughly equal power. It is up to them to decide how it will be shared. In a marriage between one man and multiple women, the wife faces not only competition from her husband but competition from other wives eager to gain power/influence.
10. Divorce. It's a big enough problem now between monogamous couples. How is marital property equitably disposed of when there are multiple wives, each with children? If a woman wants to leave a polygamous marriage, her actions affect many more people. Maybe that explains why most societies that allow polygamy don't think a woman should be able to get a divorce (unlike men).
I can think of many more, but this has gone on long enough. This article has an example of a situation where polygamy seems to have worked out for all concerned. I'm sure there are others, but anecdotes are generally a pretty poor basis for public policy decisions.
Note: Because Grim's argument was rooted in the notion of what a woman thinks is good for her, I purposely did not consider the drawbacks for men (though I believe they exist and would have little problem coming up with a similar list from the male perspective).