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Fraternal Polyandry In Tibet Essay

1987 words - 8 pages

Although the various phenomena that involve multiple males involved with one female, have always been fascinating to anthropologists, there does not seem to be one common explanation for polyandry. This failure has raised questions about the similarities between the different societies in which this type of behavior is observed in. From the point of view of Berrman (1975), polyandry does not have a same manner in all societies and the basis, function, costs and consequences of polyandry must be studied individually in each society (Goldstein, 1981).
Polyandry is the rarest form of marriage and has been observed in only four societies: the Toda, the Marquesans, the Nayar and the Tibetans (Lee,1982). Even in polyandrous populations, most of the marriages seem to be monogamous. However, cultural definition for an ideal
marriage in these societies is polyandry. It is often presumed that men have more tendency to marry more than one woman and not women to have more than one man at the same time, that is why polyandry termed unnatural (Lee,1982). There are various factors that have an effect on a society to adopt polyandry.
Extreme poverty has been among the main factors that may influence a society to practice polyandry. A polyandrous marital system may serve as coping mechanism to lessen hardships caused by resource scarcity in societies where families cannot support population growth (Lee,1982). This system works by regulating the population size. The justification is that a woman in union with more than one man cannot produce any more children than a woman with one man in a given duration of time and thus very few offspring are produced as a result.

However, there must be additional factors that compel a society to practice polyandry since this type of marital system cannot be observed in all societies where resources are limited.
Polyandry may be a practical option in agriculturally based societies where resources are limited and there are few productive tasks for women and children. In these societies, large families are disadvantageous as they would only increase consumption without having any changes in production levels. This situation may arise in societies like Tibet where the economy was based on agricultural and farmland was a rare commodity (Lee,1982). Due to custom and the legal structure, Tibet’s land was controlled by the landed aristocracy, the government, or the church. Peasants paid at least two thirds of the annual farm produce in rent. There was no gain in expanding the land and increasing production since almost all the surplus was paid as rent or taxes. With land being a rare commodity, the population did however...

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