The polyandry is, in fact, a rare phenomenon, though not as much as previously thought, and understanding of the variables that define the term is evolving. The two best known areas in which polyandry was studied and continued to be practiced in the 21st century are the Tibet Plateau and the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. However, in a report published in 2012, anthropologists Kathrine Starkweather and Raymond Hames identified 53 additional non-classical societies around the world that also practice polyandry, either formal (i.e., recognized by marriage and joint residence) or informal. (when two or more men are considered co-parents of the offspring and are invested in the care of the mother and the child or children).

What is polyandry?

It is a term that is used to refer to the condition of women who have marriages with different men at the same time, being able to be married to two, three or more men at the same time.


So overall , it is considered that polyandry is a response to localized peculiar conditions, including the proportions of male and female gender , the mortality  male adult, the absenteeism male , the stratification social and economic base of the group. Virtually all societies in which the practice of polyandry is accepted is based on hunting and gathering or the agricultural sector.

  • Etymology
  • Origin of polyandry
  • Polyandrical family
  • Polyandry in animals
  • Polyandry example


The word etymology is composed of the prefix “ poli ” that comes from the Greek “ πολυ ” (poly) and which means abundance or plurality and “ ανδρος ” (andros) which is the genitive form of “ ανηρ ” (anēr) which means stamen .

Origin of polyandry

The custom developed in human cultures where resources , particularly land and food , were scarce, and where women could possess ancestral properties or titles of rank. In some parts of the world it occurred in areas where women themselves were rare, for example, in cultures where female infanticide was carried out routinely, or where women were less likely to survive into adulthood.

Polyandry allowed men to pool their resources and live a comfortable life that would otherwise be denied to them and their children. And in these relationships, women often enjoyed a very high status .

It occurred throughout the Indian subcontinent , in areas such as the Canadian Arctic, and in parts of Africa , China, and the Americas . We know that, in some ancient Celtic societies, women were allowed to own property and therefore marry more than one husband, because Julius Caesar complained about it along with other customs. Around 2300 BC, the Sumerian king Urukagina of Lagash completely abolished the custom of polyandry in Mesopotamia . Polyandry was also successively prohibited by monotheistic religions , JudaismChristianity and Islam.

Polyandrical family

The polyandric family consists of the marital union that a woman carries out with several men . This practice has been observed in towns where the culture is quite backward and in which there is a great shortage of women, caused by the practice of infanticide of children.

Polyandry in animals

Polyandry seen from the biological or animal point of view is the female practice that animals have of mating with several males at the same time and is very common in the animal kingdom . It is a practice that occurs despite the fact that for some females the price is high, such as female fruit flies, which, when practicing polyandry, consume excessive energy and thus precipitate their death .

Specifically, some males carry the SR gene on their X chromosome, which specialists classify as a selfish gene because it causes all the sperm that carry the Y chromosome to die. This implies that these types of animals can only produce female offspring , and that their offspring carry damaged DNA in their genes.

Polyandry example

In Nepal we see for example the kingdom of Mustang which is located in the North of Nepal at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters. It is inhabited by ” the wolves “, the name given to a Tibetan ethnic group. The agricultural land in addition to being arid in that place is very scarce and the succession of property rights is given to men, thus, in a family the eldest son is the only heir to all the lands and the only one with the right to marry with a single woman, who in turn will be the wife of his brothers. A man who does not want to marry his brother’s wife can become a Buddhist monk or be a servant under his brother’s orders.

There is no sense of fatherhood , and children only differentiate the older brother as their own father.

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