Men, Women Disagree over Polygamy in Karamoja

Youth and Women during the dialogue in Karibu Hotel in Abim

By Kasline Gladys Lakareber

Karamojong men believe that having more wives provides security, labour, pride, strength in their locality and also a sign of wealth (Cultural belief according to the elders).

However, a section of women have had an assumption recently that the low development, low literacy levels among the Karimojongs and persistent hunger are caused by Polygamy in the region as many people still strongly believe in their Cultural practices.

The women alarmed that this polygamous act has made several men to run away from responsibilities, leaving only them to struggle with the upbringing of children, providing for them and in some instances paying school fees which they say has become a burden.

During a recent Youth and women dialogue organized by world Food program and feed future held at Karibu hotel on the 2 nd September 2022 as part of the program for 2022 7th Edition of the Karamoja Cultural event in Abim district, many women rose up to caution men to adopt civilization and have only a manageable family if they wish well for the region’s future.

Mary Loburo Resident of Abim Town council Abim district blamed Karamoja men for abandoning most of their responsibilities such as grazing, looking for food among others to women.

Loburo reveal that she came to realize that the constant suffering of Karimojongs, including hunger, low development, insecurity and low level of Education are all contributed by Polygamy in the region since most men are idle doing no productive work but only drinking.

She added that this is now becoming a challenge to the Government because a man might be having 15 children that he can not manage to provide for and as such resorts to cattle raids, or the children themselves go raiding, move to streets, mining sites and even others marry off while still young. She appealed to the educated and civilised Karimojong women sensitize men and elders so that polygamy can be reduced or even phased out.

Mary Ayune from Abim town council, says polygamy in Karamoja is fueling poverty and that if women choose to be silent, they will soon start crying as the situation of poverty and hunger rages on them due to ignorance. She says it is very difficult for Karimojong men to abandon the practice of polygamy as the see it as their pride in society.

She believes that much as large families could contribute massively in production, the practice of polygamy must be fought or discouraged due to various hurdles like domestic violence, easy spread of HIV/AIDS, poverty and food insecurity which may affect the women and children most.

Emmanuel Lodio the district speaker Kotido disagreed with the women’s suggestion insisting that not all men fear or run away from responsibilities but some of the women do not like to work with their men. He insists that women should always understand the men they want to marry so that such misunderstandings can be avoided.

Lodio stated that in the Karimojong Culture, a man is only allowed to marry more women as long as they can support. He sounded strong warning to men who brings many wives without proper planning urging them to stop and start providing proper care for the ones they can manage well.

However Stephanie Adupa, a female Councilor representing Tapac Sub County Moroto district who also doubles as chairperson women’s Association in Moroto says it’s not proper for women to fight polygamy because this is an agreement between two partners. 

Stephanie Adupa, a female Councilor representing Tapac Sub County Moroto district

Adupa stated that it is not easy to stop a man to from adding more wives unless he decides himself to stay with one because their great grandfathers practiced the same and had no much challenges. She encourage her fellow Karimojong women to focus on their families and accord men with the respect they deserve until such a time when the region will also adopt to change in cultural mindsets. 

While commenting on the matter, Simon Nangiro, the chairperson of Karamoja Elders Association said it is nearly impossible to phase out polygamy in the Karamojong culture as it is a symbol of success. He stated that for so long, men have lived with multiple wives for various productive reasons such as labour and security.

”If for instance a man marries more than one wife, this brings wealth easier to such a family because women are hard working and can influence production so it is quite impossible to discouraged polygamy in Karamoja for now,” Nangiro said.

The increased economic role for women at the household levels may have strengthened their independence and social standing as they dominate in agriculture, mining, labour in towns among others. This means that women’s economic contribution has increased in many locations across Karamoja and they have become the primary providers in numerous households in the broader region than their men.


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