BANGI, July 15 — A study on polygamy, which is allowed only for Muslims here, showed that 44 per cent of first wives are forced to find extra work after their husbands take on a second wife.
The study by non-governmental organisation Sisters in Islam (SIS) and the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas) of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) surveyed some 1,200 participants from polygamous families throughout peninsular Malaysia since 2008.
“The husband’s contribution to his first wife’s family decreased after his second marriage,” said SIS senior research officer Adibah Mohd. Jodi.
“About 44 per cent of first wives have to take on extra work after their husbands take on a second wife,” she added.
Centre of Research on Women’s Development (Kanita), University of Science Malaysia (USM) director Rashidah Shuib said that many first wives are unable to get financial aid from the government as they are told to rely on their husbands.
The debut study also revealed that only 28 per cent of first wives and 47 per cent of second wives were satisfied with their husbands’ method of alternating nights between them.
“The system of the husband taking turns (between his wives) is not discussed and it is as if the husband has unilateral power (in this matter),” said Rashidah, who is one of the lead researchers.
“How does the court then evaluate the husband’s ability to be fair?” she asked.
According to Syariah law, husbands need to fulfil either criterion of “fair” or “necessary” before he is allowed to marry another woman.
“Husbands find that spending time equally with his family members is very difficult compared to other factors like spreading finances, communication or affection equally,” added Rashidah.
The study also showed that 70 per cent of first wives cited a need for more counselling after their husbands’ second marriage, while about 53 per cent of them cited an increase in domestic violence.
“Most first wives isolate themselves and turn to their children for support instead. Where do these children then turn to?” asked Rashidah.
Rashidah also criticised the syariah court’s removal of the fifth condition for polygamy which states that there is to be no decrease in quality of life, saying “this condition can never be fulfilled.”
“First wives are the most dissatisfied (parties) in almost all aspects, such as time, emotion, resources and communication (with their husbands),” she said.
When asked why majority of children of either the first or second wife remarked that they “did not care” about being in a polygamous family, head researcher Norani Othman said that their lax attitude could be a psychological defence mechanism.
Majority of the research participants were from Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang as they were more open to answering surveys than their urban counterparts in Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan, added Norani.
About 47 per cent of husbands and 35 per cent of second wives surveyed were either self-employed or blue collar workers, while about 52 per cent of first wives were homemakers.....