In the modern times a lot of people point to the double standards against women in traditional societies, where kings had many wives, while their Queens were expected to be faithful to them. This is a very valid question. Why should men be allowed to have multiple wives while wives were expected to be faithful to one man. In this article I will explain why many societies accepted these double standards. We will also learn why, traditionally in India, a faithful wife is given the same stature as a divine Goddess.
Let us consider four societies:
Society A enforces monogamy, where every individual is only allowed to marry one person be it a man or a woman.
Society B enforces monogamy on women but allows men to be polygamous. So in this society a man can have multiple wives but a woman can only have one husband.
Society C enforces monogamy on men but allow women to be polygamous. So in this society a man can only have one wife, while a woman can have multiple husbands
Society D allows polygamy for both men and women. So a man is allowed to have multiple wives and a woman can have multiple husbands.
What do you think will happen in such societies? Well let’s see consider them one by one. Before we start I want to propose a few precepts.
1. For any society to survive and be healthy, it is very important that it’s children are taken good care of, so that they can grow up to be healthy individuals and positively contribute towards the welfare of the society as a whole.
2. Raising a human child is very difficult; it involves almost 20-year commitment on behalf of the parents.
3. A child who gets attention from both his mother and father is expected to grow up to a healthier and more intelligent compared to a child with single parent.
4. Parents take good care of their own child over other children
Now if we assume these precepts are true and I assume any reasonable person will think they are, we can use them to evaluate which societies amongst there four will have the best chance of survival and happiness overall.
In society A, men and women both have just one partner. The wife bears the child so she obviously knows that the child she has is hers, and since she is faithful to her husband, he also knows that the child his. So both the man and the woman are dedicated to the child, the child grows up to be strong and successful. The society therefore grows strong and prosperous and its people grow happy.
In society B, men can have many wives, but a woman can only have one husband. Since the wives are faithful to their husband, both the man and the women are confident that their children are theirs and therefore are dedicated to their children. The man however has to be able to provide and protect many children of his from his numerous wives. Only highly resourceful men therefore can do this and ensure that their children are well taken care of. Therefore if only highly resourceful men in the society are allowed to have many wives, this type of society can also grow strong and prosperous. Moreover these powerful men should not be allowed to keep all the women as their wives as this will make other men violent and the society will go downhill.
In society C, women can have many husbands, but men can only have one wife. In this situation women know for sure that children are hers, but men do not. So men will not be willing to protect or provide for the children. Such a society therefore will only have mothers taking care of their children, while men will just have intercourse and then leave. They will not be interested in doing any work. With just one parent to take care of, children in such a society will be weaker. Moreover since men will not engage in industry, the economy of such a nation will collapse. Therefore the society will grow weaker and eventually collapse.
In society D, where it is a free show for everyone, same as in society C, men do not know if the children are theirs or not. So men will just try to mate with as many women as possible and then just leave. The good thing here is that atleast men will engage in industry to attract as many women as possible. The children will have to be raised by only women, therefore just like society C, society D will also collapse. Although this society is not as bad as society C, because men will engage in industry to attract as many mates as they can.
So, as we can see societies with faithful wives remain strong, while societies where women are not faithful collapse. Therefore all societies have placed a very strong emphasis on asking the women to remain faithful to their husbands. The best society is the one where both men and women are faithful to each other however, as we have seen, if powerful men are allowed to have many wives, the society can still grow strong, provided these powerful men are not hoarding all the women. Therefore Kings were allowed to have many wives, while Queens were always expected to be faithful.
These were definitely double standards according to modern values and that is why we have enforced monogamy in the modern times, but values of society differ from time to time and judging a past society on current values is unfair. We are all part of our society and for our own well being we need the well being of our society. Therefore it is very important that our society grows strong and prosperous. For the prosperity of a society it is more important for it’s women to be devoted to her husband than vice versa, and that is why just restrictions were imposed more strictly on women. Following a rule for our benefit and the benefit of our society is not oppression it is our responsibility.