Polygamous Marriages in India

Vaidehi Yelamanchili, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)
Sulabha Parasuraman, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)

Polygamy prevailed in ancient India. In modern times, the Hindu Marriage Act, applicable to a majority of Indians, prohibits its practice and declares the marriage void if either of the partners have a living spouse at the time of marriage. However, polygamous marriages exist though its extent is not known. The 2005-06 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) included questions on this issue and some important findings are – 2% of women reported that their husband had other wives besides herself. Husband’s of women with no children are more likely to have multiple wives than women who have at least one child. This study proposes to analyze NFHS-3 data to understand the profile of women living in polygamous marriages and to understand the cultural and regional correlates. In India, marriage is practiced mainly for progeny and having a son is considered essential. The role of childlessness and son preference leading to polygamous marriages will be investigated.

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Presented in Poster Session 2