A group of young Saudi men have launched a campaign to convince Saudi men of the unappreciated virtues of polygamy.
It is a response to young Saudi women uninterested in joining a polygamous marriage, older Saudi women divorcees and Saudi men unable or unwilling to support more than one woman. The campaign seeks to counter what Saudi traditionalists see as an increasingly negative stigma attached to polygamy.
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Campaigning under the slogan “Prophet of Four”, a reference to the Islamic edict allowing men to marry up to four wives, the group calls for every Saudi man to take four wives so as to rid the country of so-called ‘spinsters’, a term referring to unmarried Saudi women over the age of 30. Launched at the start of Saudi Arabia’s ‘marriage season’, the campaign’s Facebook page has already garnered a few hundred supporters.
Saudi Arabia’s strict patriarchal guardianship system requires all women to be represented by men, either their husband, father or son, in all public and official spheres of life. Women are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children, and cannot socialize with unrelated men.
But Saudi Arabia’s firm gender roles and norms have loosened a bit over the past few years, and more and more young Saudi women are well educated, financially independent and exposed to different ways of thinking about themselves, relationships and their roles in society. Saudi social analysts say this leads many young Saudi women to refuse the advances of men seeking to take a second, third or fourth wife. Some women seek out foreign men, in the hopes that they will not end up in a polygamous marriage.
“Women are more educated and have jobs, so they are not always in a rush to get married for financial support like they were before, especially if their parents give them the freedom to travel and lead their lives as they wish,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist told The Media Line. “Many women don’t want to be second wives, so the campaigners want to promote the idea among women so that they will be more accepting of the idea.”
Statistics on the number of unmarried Saudi women are unreliable, but the figure is believed to be high.
Saudi men, meanwhile, are uninterested in marrying divorcees or older unmarried women, leaving a large demographic unmarried and financially unstable.
Eman Al Nafjan, a Saudi blogger who often writes about women’s issues,
said the campaign’s focus is more geared towards men.
“It’s not that they want to convince the women – there are plenty of
women who will accept marriage proposals – it’s that they want to
convince the men to marry older women,” she told The Media Line. “The
men want virgins, not older women or divorcees. The problem is that we
have a lot of women in their late 20s or 30s who are not married and
which men are not interested in, while the young ladies don’t want to be
the second wife as their first marriage.”
Al Nafjan said that while young Saudi men tend to avoid taking on older
women as new wives, men are interested in casual relationships.
“Getting married is expensive, and men don’t want to commit to an older
woman, to set up a house for her,” she said. “He just wants a kind of a
fling, so he marries the woman for a few months and then divorce[s] her
without anyone, including the first wife, knowing about it... Sometimes
the woman gets pregnant or they fall in love, but that’s rare.”