Insight: May 29

This week Insight looks at modern day polygamous relationships in Australia.

Although it’s outlawed in Australia, polygamy is practiced in some Indigenous, Muslim and African communities, where having more than one wife is a long-standing and legitimate cultural norm.

Insight asks whether polygamy is more natural for humans than traditional monogamy, what it’s like for children growing up in those households, and how the spouses negotiate jealousy.

Guests include:

Belle Glasby and Dorothy Loader are identical twin sisters and are both in a relationship with the same man in Perth. Separated at birth, the twins were reunited three years ago. Soon after, Belle’s husband, Marc Glasby, fell in love with Dorothy and the three have lived in a polygamous relationship ever since. The women separately spend alternate nights with Marc. Dorothy and Belle are both Christians and think God would be pleased that the relationship makes them all so happy.

Witiyana Marika is an Aboriginal elder and has two wives. A founding member of Yothu Yindi, Witiyana was raised in Yirrkala, a remote community in the Northern Territory. Witiyana says it is part of aboriginal culture for men to have multiple partners in order to form larger clans and stronger families. He says the women are treated equally and says there were a lot of positives about growing up in a large extended family.

Fatima is engaged to be married as a second wife. She thinks polygamy is a fantastic way to raise children and believes it makes economic sense too. She hasn’t told her family or friends she will be a second wife because she fears they won’t understand. Originally from New Zealand, Fatima converted to Islam when she was 28 years old.

Eman Sharobeem is a psychologist and community worker and believes religion can subjugate women into accepting polygamous relationships. She talks to hundreds of immigrant women each week and says jealousy of “co-wives” in polygamous relationships is a common complaint. She says some women are often driven to the point of mental health breakdowns because of it.

Polygamy is a very normal part of life in the Sierra Leonean community in Australia, according to Tony. He grew up in a polygamous family, with his father having two wives. He remembers the jealously between the wives and fearing his father would leave his mother for the other wife. But he also enjoyed having a big family and lots of siblings. Tony doesn’t want a polygamous marriage himself because of the “hassle” of looking after two families.

Fatimah says polygamy is common in her local Lebanese Muslim community in Sydney. She isn’t in a polygamous relationship but says she sees other women enjoying the benefits of polygamy, such as housework help, financial support and companionship. She says God allows polygamy because God “knew that man was weak” in terms of fidelity.

Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.

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