Men in polygamous relationships find it difficult to meet the needs of all their wives and children, and the result is unhappy and cash-strapped families, according to a landmark Malaysian study.
Polygamy is legal for Muslims, who make up more than 60 per cent of Malaysia's population, allowing Muslim men to take up to four wives. But activists and women's groups say polygamy is cruel and has deviated from its original purpose in Islam, which was to protect widows and orphans.
A study by advocacy group Sisters in Islam found that the majority of first wives and children in polygamous families were unhappy with the arrangement.
Husbands and junior wives gave a more positive response, according to the study which backed activists' views that first wives are often forgotten after a man creates a new family. "The husbands are the most advantaged in terms of fulfilling his desire and satisfaction in life. He has access to more than one sexual partner every day or night while the wives take turn," it said.
According to preliminary data, 90 per cent of the 523 children in households interviewed vowed not to enter into polygamy themselves, and two-thirds of first wives were against the practice.