Since polygamy and female genitale mutilation have become trend topics in the blogosphere (Shawawi, OPNO, Susan) these days, here are my two cents on polygamy:
1. Polygamy is still very prevalent here in Dhofar. I know many polygamists. It's not a dying art. I know men who have two, three, even four wives.
2. Most polygamist families I know are unhappy.
3. Many polygamists I know never informed their first wives about their plans to re-marry (some marriage they had, eh?)
4. When a man takes on a second wife here in Dhofar, people in this society somehow have the audacity to accuse the first wife of not being a good wife and not keeping her husband on a leash. (Excuse me?!)
5. I'm not entirely against the practice if there are very strong reasons. As OPNO explained in her blog, it's Islamically acceptable to marry a second woman if she is a Sharia-defined orphan (i.e. a woman with no living male relatives who can support her, and who has no means of supporting herself). I assume it's also Islamically correct to 'inform' the first wife before you marry another. But let's be realistic here: how many men in Oman are marrying for Islamic reasons? I'd say less than 1% of polygamists.
6. I tend to agree that polygamy these days brings nothing but pain and heartache to the families. I know women are the main victims, but let's not forget the chidlren. In many families, children suffer as much as their mothers.
7. I think the Ministry of Religious Affairs + Social Development should cooperate and set clear rules and regulations for polygamy. You shouldn't be able to just walk into a court and marry any woman you like (without her approval or the first wife's approval for the matter). A 70-year-old shouldn't just be able to take on an 18-year-old as a fourth wife without authorities approving the marriage. Yes, I think there should be regulations. Clear regulations. (and yes, there are plenty of old geezers who marry young girls. Families are more than willing to hand their daughters over if the dowry is big ... I can think of one recent marriage between a man in his 70s and a young girl in her twenties.. the dowry was 60,000 OMR) .... see what I mean? It's disgusting and there should be rules.
8. Do you know if the Ministry of Social Development is sharing statistics these days? Divorced women? Handicapped children? Polygamists? Children born out of wedlock? Orphans?