Countries Where Polygamy Is Legal in 2024: Love Multiplied

Man with Two Women

Polygamy, the practice of marrying multiple spouses, has been a subject of debate and moral contention for centuries. While the practice is illegal in most Western countries, it remains legal or tolerated in many parts of the world.

This article aims to delve into the countries where polygamy is legal as of 2024, exploring the cultural, religious, and legal aspects that allow this form of marriage to exist.

The Definition of Polygamy

Polygamy is a term that describes a marriage involving three or more people. While often associated with religious or cultural practices, it’s essential to understand that polygamy exists in various forms and for various reasons.

Types of Polygamy

One Husband and Many Wives Photo with FamilyPolygamy can be categorized into different types, each with its own set of rules and societal norms. The most common form is polygyny, where one man marries multiple women.

Polyandry, on the other hand, involves one woman and multiple men. There’s also group marriage, which includes multiple husbands and wives.

The List of Countries

Region Countries with Legal Polygamy
Africa Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eswatini, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda
Middle East Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Asia Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka
Others Solomon Islands

As of 2024, polygamy is fully legal in 47 countries. These include:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Eswatini
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Guinea
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Morocco
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

Regional Distribution and Legal Context

The list reveals a concentration of countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. This distribution aligns with regions where polygamy is not only legally recognized but also culturally and religiously accepted.

The legal frameworks can vary, with some countries allowing polygamy across the board and others providing religious or customary exemptions.

The Global Prevalence of Polygamy

According to Pew Research, only about 2% of the global population lives in polygamous households. This statistic may seem small, but it represents a significant number of people, especially in regions where polygamy is not just legal but also culturally accepted.

Statistics and Demographics

  • Africa: Polygamy is most prevalent in African countries, where it is often practiced for cultural and religious reasons.
  • Middle East: In some Middle Eastern countries, polygamy is allowed under Islamic law.
  • Asia: In countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, polygamy is legal but subject to various restrictions.

The Morality and Societal Impact of Polygamy

Compass DrawingThe morality of polygamy is a subject of intense debate. Proponents argue that polygamous marriages can offer more stable environments for children, as they have more parental figures.

Critics, however, contend that the practice is exploitative and perpetuates gender inequality.

Arguments For and Against

  • For: Those in favor often cite religious freedom and the potential for more stable households with multiple adults contributing to the family’s well-being.
  • Against: Critics argue that polygamy can be used to exploit women and that it perpetuates a system where men have disproportionate power in the family structure.

Religious Views on Polygamy

Latin Cross DrawingReligion often plays a significant role in the acceptance or rejection of polygamy. Different faiths have varying stances, and even within a single religion, interpretations can differ.


Buddhism generally regards marriage as a secular affair. For instance, Thailand legally recognized polygamy in 1955, while Myanmar outlawed polygyny in 2015.

The stance on polygamy varies from one Buddhist country to another, reflecting the religion’s diverse interpretations.


The Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant denominations condemn polygamy. However, some exceptions exist, such as the Lutheran Church, which accepts some polygamists, and the Anglican Communion, which ruled in 1988 that polygamy was permissible under specific circumstances.

Legal Status of Polygamy Worldwide

The Scales of JusticeThe legal landscape of polygamy is as diverse as the countries that permit or prohibit it. Laws can vary widely, even within regions that share cultural or religious similarities.

North and South America

Polygamy is illegal and criminalized in every country in North and South America, including all 50 U.S. states. However, Utah reduced the punishment for consensual polygamy in February 2020, making it roughly equivalent to a traffic ticket.

Europe and Oceania

With the exception of the Solomon Islands, polygamous marriages are not recognized in Europe and Oceania. However, some countries, like Sweden, recognize polygamous marriages performed abroad.

Case Studies

Examining specific countries can provide valuable insights into how polygamy is practiced and regulated. These case studies offer a glimpse into the complexities involved.


In Afghanistan, polygyny is legal for up to four wives. The practice is deeply rooted in the country’s cultural and religious fabric, making it a widely accepted form of marriage.


Indonesia allows polygamy, but rules can vary by province. For example, in Bali, Papua, and West Papua, polygamy has been practiced for centuries. However, there have been protests to outlaw the practice, which have not yet resulted in legislative changes.

Loopholes and Exceptions

While many countries have laws that either permit or prohibit polygamy, there are often loopholes or exceptions that can complicate the legal landscape.

Customary Law

In some African countries like Liberia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone, polygamy is illegal under civil law but still allowed through customary law. This creates a dual system where “civil” marriages and “customary” or “religious” marriages coexist, often leading to legal ambiguities.

Religious Exemptions

In countries like India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, polygamy is recognized but only for Muslims. This religious exemption creates a legal framework that accommodates specific religious practices while maintaining a general prohibition on polygamy for the larger population.

The Feminist Perspective

The issue of polygamy often intersects with questions of gender equality and women’s rights, making it a subject of interest from a feminist perspective.

Women’s Rights and Polygamy

Critics argue that polygamy inherently subjugates women, reducing them to a status akin to property. On the other hand, some women in polygamous relationships claim they feel empowered by their choice.

The feminist perspective on polygamy is far from monolithic and varies depending on cultural, religious, and individual viewpoints.

The Economic Aspect

Some argue that polygamy can be an economic burden on men, as they are traditionally expected to provide for all their wives and children. This economic angle adds another layer to the feminist debate, as it challenges the notion that men solely benefit from polygamous arrangements.

Future Trends

As societies evolve, so do attitudes and laws concerning polygamy. It’s crucial to examine the trends that could shape the future of this practice.

Changing Laws and Attitudes

In recent years, there has been a push to reevaluate the laws surrounding polygamy. For instance, Utah’s decision to reduce the penalties for polygamy reflects a changing attitude, at least in some parts of the United States.

Globalization and Polygamy

The forces of globalization are bringing disparate cultures into closer contact, which could either dilute traditional practices like polygamy or lead to their broader acceptance as people are exposed to different lifestyles and beliefs.


Is polygamy legal in the United States?

Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states of the United States. However, Utah, famous for breathtaking waterfalls, has reduced the penalties for consensual polygamy, making it roughly equivalent to a traffic ticket.

How does polygamy affect children?

The impact of polygamy on children can vary. Some argue that having multiple parental figures can provide a more stable environment, while others contend that it can lead to emotional and psychological issues.

Are there any health risks associated with polygamy?

There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that polygamy itself poses health risks. However, the practice can sometimes be associated with a higher incidence of domestic violence and psychological stress.

What is the difference between polygamy and polyamory?

Polygamy involves marriage to multiple spouses and is often culturally or religiously motivated. Polyamory, on the other hand, involves multiple romantic relationships but not necessarily marriage.

Do women ever have multiple husbands?

Yes, although rare, polyandry is a form of polygamy where a woman has multiple husbands. This practice is less common and is often found in specific cultural contexts.

Final Words

The subject of polygamy is intricate and multi-faceted, involving a blend of legal, cultural, and ethical considerations. This comprehensive analysis aimed to shed light on the countries where polygamy is legal, the religious and moral debates surrounding it, and the societal impact of this practice.

As societies evolve, so too will the conversations and laws concerning polygamy.

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