Analyzing Polyandry Relationships: Why My People Do Not Practice It

I had a student of mine today ask me about polyandry relationships. I immediately said: not what we do! With the many blessings of the divine, such a structure is not necessary and in the long run will create more instability in the overcall dynamics of relationships.

This student just moved to the US from Bangladesh and is a student at the university in languages and politics. His father is an importer of persian rugs, and also has a San Antonio carpet cleaning service business that is thriving. My student is working there part time, and in the rest of the time he is devouring books on world religions. I have a feeling he will be transferring to the religion department before long.

I believe this explanation will sufficiently satisfy his curiosity about what I consider a sociological fluke: polyandry relationships.

Fraternal-polyandry and it’s Effects on the Economy

The practice of fraternal-polyandry in Tibet has historically played, and continues to play, a major role in the economy of Tibet. Many positive repercussions of this system are indisputable. Regardless, the negative aspects of this tradition keep the practice from maintaining its prior popularity.

The personal economies of fraternal-polyandry’s practitioners reap many unusual benefits. The system prevents the division of the family farm, therefore resulting in a higher standard of living for all those involved; having only one heir per generation prevents unprofitable fragmentation of land. In the harsh climate of Tibet, it is much safer to work already cultivated land than to brave the potential barren lands. Women, specifically, benefit from the added security that comes when more than one man supports a woman and her children. Additionally, fraternal-polyandry regulates the population by leaving many women spinsters, taking pressure off of the limited resources. The pressure to work is lessened, as well, since there is a division of adult labor within the family. All parties are more likely to reap the benefits of material comfort, such as security and prestige.

Material wealth aside, fraternal-polyandry is not a flawless system. Personal freedom is lost in the process. There are less offspring and, as a result, a smaller labor force for the country. Since so few people try and cultivate virgin lands, the potential resources are not being taken advantage of. For the youngest of the brothers, it is a decision between eternal subordination and economic struggle. In the long run, tensions involving favoritism could cause the family and the land to be divided. The family, by only doing manual farm labor, could be losing valuable money-making opportunities since individual talents and skills are never recognized nor utilized. Finally, without great risk there is no great reward; this system could cause the economy to become stagnant.

There are many situations or regions in which the same pros and cons would apply, but in a rich land with more resources, fraternal-polyandry would instantaneously become obsolete. In desert-like climates, like some parts of Tibet, combining laborers in a family would help to ensure economic stability and, in isolation, give protection from outside danger.

A useful reference: