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The object of this project is to gather together GENi profiles of men and women from anywhere in the world who were polygamists. Please add any Geni profiles to the project

See Separate Project for Bigamists


Polygamy - the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time. Polygamy exists in three specific forms:

  • polygyny - in instances where a man has multiple simultaneous wives;
  • polyandry - where a woman has multiple simultaneous husbands;
  • group marriage - where the family unit consists of multiple husbands and multiple wives.

Serial monogamy (in which divorce and remarriage occur) is treated by anthropologists as a form of polygamy as it also establishes a series of households that continue to be tied by shared paternity and shared income.

Further categories - sororal polygyny, in which the co-wives are sisters, and non-sororal, where the co-wives are not related.

Plural marriage - practiced by some Mormon men who were specifically commanded to do so. Many early Latter Day Saint members practiced plural marriage, a doctrine that stated that polygyny is ordained of God. See List of Latter Day Saint practitioners of plural marriage. See more at Mormonism and polygamy

Lawful Polygamy

Acceptance of polygamy is common globally. Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth, power, and fame. Many international human rights organisations as well as women's rights groups in many countries have called for its abolition. The practice has been ruled to violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations has recommended that the practice be abolished.


  • BLACK Polygamy permitted and practiced.
  • GREY Legal status unknown or ambiguous.
  • PALE BLUE Polygamy generally illegal, but its practice not fully criminalised.
  • DARK BLUE Polygamy fully outlawed and abolished and its practice fully criminalised.

In India, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, polygamy is only legal for Muslims. In Eritrea, only Muslims may contract legal polygamous marriages in certain countries and sharia regions. In Mauritius, polygamous unions have no legal recognition. Muslim men may, however, "marry" up to four women, but they do not have the legal status of wives.

Polygany in South Africa

Polyganous marriages are recognised under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, but only if entered into from within a traditionalist community - African and Muslim. The first wife/wives have to agree to the marriage/s with the subsequent wife/wives. Divorce, inheritance and maintenance laws attempt to ensure that the practice is discouraged for men who cannot afford to provide for this kind of household.

Polyandry is not an African tradition, and so is not recognised in SA.

Bigamy is a crime for all marriages entered into under Western law.

Famous/Notable Polygamists

  • Brady Williams, and his five wives recently started sharing their private life with the public. The reality series My five Wives, about the family, is broadcasting on TLC, and they say they feel a great relief since they started doing the show. For them, it seems like they don't need to hide any more and the sensation is very liberating. All together they have 24 children and live in their home in Salt Lake City.
  • The Brown family became famous when the TV show Sister Wives started broadcasting on TLC, in 2010. It is reality show that follows the life of a polygamous family living in Utah, where the husband has four wives and 17 children. Kodi and his wives were stating that they started doing the show with a wish to fight social prejudices and raise the awareness of the public about polygamous families.
  • Ziona Chana is living in India with his 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law, and 33 grandchildren. The biggest house in the village is theirs, with 100 rooms. In 1942, Ziona Chana formed the Christian sect that allows the members to take as many wives as they want. For one single dinner, the family needs 30 chickens. With such a big family Ziona feels blessed, and he says that the family gets along really well, treating each other with respect and love. He stated to the media that he's still looking for his next wife.
  • Darger Family, Utah - Joe, Vicky, Valerie, and Alina Darger (with a total of 24 children) are the activists of the decriminalisation of polygamy, who are living in Utah. Their family was the inspiration for the series Big Love, on HBO, and they appeared on the show Sister Wives as well. They describe themselves as independent fundamentalist Mormons. They wrote the book Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage.
  • Ikhwan Polygamy Club, Malaysia. Mohd Nizamuddin Ashhar is a member of the Ikhwan Polygamy Club. He is 48 years old, having four wives and 24 children. They live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where polygamy is legalised, with a condition that the husband can have a maximum of four wives. The Ikhwan Polygamy Club stated that they have around 1,000 members from Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the Middle East and Europe. They were under the suspicion of the government that they're trying to revive the cult of al-Arqam, which was banned in 1994 for "deviant" religious teachings.
  • Joe S. Jessop is a respected member of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and has five wives, 46 children, and 239 grandchildren. As a young boy he came to Short Creek, where there existed only seven houses at the time. Now, the community has about 6,000 inhabitants, all of them being FLDS members. Joe's family came to Short Creek "To obey the law of plural marriage, to build up the kingdom of God." as he stated. FLDS split from the Mormon Church after they banned multiple marriages.
  • Kisah Abuya Ashaari Muhammad, Malaysia, also known as Abuya, has died recently, at the age of 72. He was the founder of the Muslim sect al-Arqam, which was set up in 1968. It had around 10,000 followers, many of them well-educated Muslims. Abuya was married five times, but the most wives he had at once was four. He had 38 children, and 203 grandchildren. Abuya became famous for promoting polygamy. Since the sect was banned, he was forced to leave Malaysia. He was arrested in Thailand, and brought back to Malaysia and detained under the Internal Security Act.
  • Milton Mbele, 44, has a total of four wives and eight children. He really pushed the limits of the traditional perception of getting married. Four brides were walking down the aisle, in white gowns, saying “We do”, instead of the usual ” I do” sentence. The women did agree it was strange that Milton wanted to marry them all at the same time, but since they love him and know he is a kind and caring man, they accepted this peculiar request.
  • Saleh al-Sayeri - 64-year-old businessman has had 58 wives. He has 10 sons and somewhere between 22 and 28 daughters. Islamic law allows men to have up to four wives at a time, but he says he has kept the same three for the past 20 years or more. The fourth wife he rotates out. "It's the one for renewal," he said. "I like to change my fourth wife every year."
  • King Sobhuza II of Swaziland
  • Irene Spencer got married to Verlan Le Baron whose previous wife was Irene's sister. Verlan had 10 wives in total and altogether 58 children. The family spent a great deal of their lives running away from Verlan's brother who wanted to kill the family. They were running through Mexico, always moving around and changing places, living under horrible conditions. Irene had difficult times living in this polygamous family, but was afraid to leave, since childhood she thought she would go to hell if she didn't sacrifice for her family. When she realized there was no worse hell than the one she was already living in, she gathered the strength and escaped. Irene is now married to one husband, and has 118 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.
  • Tran Viet Chu - of Vietnam says he has no problem keeping up with his 14 wives and 80-plus children. "Poor me, every time I see a voluptuously shaped woman I find no way to resist my sensitive feeling. I seem to have been born with this flirtatious tendency," he told the Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Public Security) newspaper. He lives with some of his family, with each wife supporting her own children. Chu provides for himself. He says he's lost count of all of his wives and kids, but says he has "at least" 14 wives. Polygamy is illegal in Vietnam, and so is having more than two children per family.
  • Jacob Zuma – Past President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was married six times, but he is currently married to four wives and has 1 fiancee (April 2018). He divorced one of his original six wives and another committed suicide. The last woman he married was in 2012. In total Zuma has 21-23 children, not all of them being from his wives, but he has legally accepted the fatherhood for all of his children.

Sources, References and Further Reading

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