WHEN BROTHERS SHARE A WIFE
- This article illustrates the practice of fraternal polyandry (several brothers marry the same wife), a marriage type very different from our own experience in the West.
- There is no attempt to link children to which brother is their father
- There is choice in marriage and divorce: a brother just can just set up his own household separate from the polyandrous one.
- Tibetans choose fraternal polyandry for materialistic and symbolic reasons.
- This type of marriage prevents the division of the family land and animals and thus allows all brothers to have a higher standard of living.
- The practice is similar to European primogeniture where the first son of a couple inherited all the family property and other siblings had to find work off the land or estate. This prevented the division of large estates and kept the wealth within the family.
- The idea behind both fraternal polyandry and primogeniture is providing only one heir or one set of heirs per generation so no one can lay claim to land and thereby take it away from the family estate. Since all the sons in a fraternal polyandrous family are from the same mother (ideally) then they all would (again ideally) take one single wife and thereby maintain the family’s land in their generation.
- Monogamous marriages in an extended household would not accomplish the above task because the sons from each different wife would be competing sets of heirs.
- A brother is motivated to practice fraternal polyandry primarily because he can expect a more secure and higher standard of living but also because this practice has cultural meaning.