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Polyandry (Greek: poly- many, andros- man) refers to a form of marriage in which a woman has two or more husbands at the same time. The form of polyandry in which a woman is married to two or more brothers is known as "fraternal polyandry", and it is believed by many anthropologists to be the most frequently encountered form.


Human polyandry

According to inscriptions describing the reforms of the Sumerian king Urukagina of Lagash (ca. 2300 BC), he is said to have abolished the former custom of polyandry in his country, on pain of the woman taking multiple husbands being stoned with rocks upon which her crime is written.[1]

Polyandry in human relationships occurs or has occurred in Tibet, Canadian Arctic, northern parts of Nepal, Nigeria,[2] Bhutan, parts of India (Ladakh, Zanskar), the Nymba, and Sri Lanka,[2] and is known to have been present in some pre-contact Polynesian societies,[3] though probably only among higher caste women.[4] It is also encountered in some regions of Mongolia, among the Mosuo people in China, and in some Sub-Saharan African such as the Maasai people in Kenya and northern Tanzania[5] and American indigenous communities. Polyandry has been practised in several cultures — in the Jaunsar region in Uttarakhand, among the Nairs, Theeyas and Toda of South India,[2] and the Nishi of Arunachal Pradesh.[6] The Guanches, the first known inhabitants of the Canary Islands, practiced polyandry until their disappearance.[7] In other societies, there are people who live in de facto polyandrous arrangements that are not recognized by the law. Saskatchewan Canada is the only jurisdiction in North America to have "judicially sanctioned" polyandrous unions at a family law court level.[citation needed]

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