The practice of Polyandry marriage, among women in Merak and Sakten Gewogs under Trashigang District, is sharply declining, with youth refusing to accept the age-old practice. Polyandry is a practice of a woman having more than one husband at the same time.
In the past, most women in these gewogs practiced polyandry. The husbands were usually brothers. The practice was to avoid distribution of wealth and pastureland. It was also to increase the manpower in the family to look after different breeds of animals for livelihood.
“When I was a child, I have seen a women married to four husbands. And there were only a few women married to a single husband. The main reason, according to our elders is because since we depend on animals for livelihood, it requires more manpower,” said Nidup Dorji, Merak Gewog.
Dechen Wangmo, 33, is one among a few women, who is married to two husbands, who are brothers
“The main reason is because being a highlander we need to rear animals. Initially I was married to the elder brother. But then I had to look after my aging parents. So I had to marry the younger brother too since there is no one to look after the animals. So far there is no problem with my marriage,” said Dechen Wangmo.
Dechen’s mother in-law is the only woman in the village, who is married to three men currently.
Most youth are however against the polyandry tradition today. Since most of them are exposed to education and modern facilities, the tradition is seen as an old-fashioned. The improvement in the living standard among the highlanders is also contributing to the decline of the polyandry tradition.
“Our Parents still want us to keep the tradition alive but I think differently. So we cannot fulfill their wishes. Even if our parents make arrangements, the marriage does not last for long,” said Phurpa Zangmo of Merak.
The divorce rate among the polyandry marriage has reportedly increased in recent years. Although, there is no official figure, the increasing divorce rate among the polyandry marriage itself proves that the tradition is no longer popular among today’s generation.