While polygamy is practised in many tribes scattered around different regions of the wold, polyandry on the other hand has become almost extinct with only a handful of unique tribes still practicing it.
However, many cases of polyandry were recorded in the past in several tribes and in many variations. Women were allowed to marry more than one husband and even brothers from the same family.
In some cultures, a woman is subject to the se'xual needs of guests who visit her home as the husband is required to vacate his bed position to the visiting guest as a sign of welcome.
Legit.ng takes you through five countries in which polyandry was and in some, still practiced.
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The Irigwe people living on the western edge of Plateau, Jos are a unique people numbering around 17,000. This small group of people are known to be ardent subscribers of polyandry and it comes as no surprise as their distinctive language and social traditions sets them apart from neighbouring tribes.
The Irigwe people of Nigeria practiced polyandry for many decades until it was voted to outlaw in 1968. Prior to that women were allowed to have 'co-husbands' and moved freely from one man's house to another, having multiple spouses, and their children’s paternity was assigned to the husband whose house the woman lived in at the time.
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. It is believed that they practiced wife sharing system among age mates, which closely resembled polyandry. However, today this practice is usually abandoned. A woman marries not just her husband but the entire age group. Men are also expected to give up their bed to a visiting age-mate guest. However, today this practice is usually abandoned. The woman decides strictly on her own if she will join the visiting male.
Polyandry was practised in Jaunsar-Bawar in Uttarakhand. A distinct group of people called Paharis live in the lower ranges of Himalayas in Northern India from southeastern Kashmir all the way through Nepal.
It was also mainly prevalent in the Kinnaur region, a part of Himachal in India which is close to the Tibet or currently the Indo-China border.
An early example can be found in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, in which Draupadi, daughter of the king of Panchala, is married to five brothers.
Apart from Kinnaur, polyandry was practised in South India among the Todas tribes of Nilgiris, Nanjanad Vellala of Travancore and some Nair castes. While polyandrous unions have disappeared from the traditions of many of the groups and tribes, it is still practiced by some Paharis, especially in the Jaunsar-Bawar region in Northern India.
The Tibet people in the Nepal parts of China practiced polyandry up until the 1960 after they were annexed by the People's Republic of China. They practiced what is labelled 'fraternal polyandry' in which the husbands a woman settles with are mostly brothers of a one family.
Concern over which children are fathered by which brother falls on the wife alone.
5. South America
The Bororo are indigenous people of Brazil, living in the state of Mato Grosso who practiced polyandry. The Bororo associate body odor with a person's life-force, and breath-odor with the person's soul.
The Tupi people who also practiced polyandry were one of the most numerous peoples indigenous to Brazil, before colonisation. Scholars believe that while they first settled in the Amazon rainforest, from about 2,900 years ago the Tupi started to migrate southward and gradually occupied the Atlantic coast of Southeast Brazil.
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