Polyandry is an individual choice, but, those who express that choice live in chains of fear, stigma and harassment in the South East Africa nation of Zimbabwe. The anti-polyandry campaigners in Zimbabwe believe giving women the power to have co-husbands will let them lord over men.
Zimbabweans who are involved in uncustomary, unconventional polyandrous experiences do them secretly for fear of the traditional chiefs, the Christian community and society at large, who view the act as taboos, according to the international journal of sociology and anthropology.
The reason women opt for polyandry is for procreation and secondly for sexual gratification in cases where their husbands are impotent.
Legally, polyandry is not criminalized in Zimbabwe, but, those caught engaging in the practice have been fined large sums or risk banishment by the traditional authority. As a result of the persecution, polyandry is considered a sensitive subject in Zimbabwe.
Collis Garikai Machoko, who has published a paper on the development, defines unconventional unofficial polyandry in the Zimbabwe context as when, two or more men deliberately, mutually and simultaneously have a sexual relationship with one woman and do not co-reside. Whereas conventional polyandry allows marriage and co-residence of the partners, it is not the case in Zimbabwe. In view of this, anthropologists argue that there is no formal polyandry in Zimbabwe.
Machoko said though the courts have not tried a case about polyandry, there is continuous persecution of actors of polyandrists with chiefs leading the charge. He said the church which is supposed to be a sanctuary is even intolerant of those involved in polyandry. Machoko said the position of Christendom is that polyandry is offensive and should not be practiced.
He said it is described as a cultural misnomer which if allowed will result in natural calamities like unexplained human, animal and plant diseases and deaths, droughts, earthquakes and floods. He stressed that even though polyandry is allowed to be practiced in Zimbabwe, the traditional position is that the ancestors will be angry and will withhold blessings for a community.
The anthropologist pointed out that churches like the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church have some male and female polygamous members but they do not accept polyandrists. He quoted Bishop Tinomuda Gwerevende of the Anglican Church in his paper saying that the church does not allow polyandry because it is off-limits but allows polygamy because it is in the bible.
He said persons who practice polyandry believe that monogamy, polygyny, co-habitation and same-sex traditions are not the only paths to sexual gratification, but having co-husbands is also a path to seeking pleasure.
He concluded that polygyny and polyandry were acceptable in primitive societies. Its acceptance eliminated feelings of jealousy from sexual relationships because co-husbands accepted each other without any sense of jealousy and the same applied to co-wives.
The principle underpinning the culture of polyandry among Zimbabweans is that the actors believe they are going back to the roots, where it eliminated the barriers of jealousy, oppression and exploitation of women by men.