LILONGWE � Malawi's Muslims and non-Muslims are opposing a campaign by feminist groups to outlaw polygamy, insisting that the practice helps fight some social ills and the spread of AIDS in the Southern African country.
"Instead of fighting outright evils in the streets such as prostitution and homosexuality; they oppose legitimate ways of enjoying conjugal rights," said Uthman.
"These organisations should fight homosexuality, prostitution and not the legal and legitimate marriage of several wives," Stewart Chipofya, of the northern Malawi tribe of Tumbuka, told IslamOnline.net.
"It bothers us much when instead of fighting outright evils in the streets such as prostitution and homosexuality; they oppose legitimate ways of enjoying conjugal rights," agrees Sheikh Mohammad Uthman, Secretary General of the Majlis Ulama Council of Malawi.
"It sounds absurd."��
Feminist organisations are campaigning against polygamy, calling for a law to ban the practice blaming it for the spread of AIDS and domestic violence.
But Muslim and non-Muslims alike disagree.
They believe that polygamy could be particularly helpful in Malawi, where population statistics indicate that females significantly outnumber males.
Chipofya's tribe, which follows a traditional African religion, accepts polygamy as an alternative to the disproportionatenumber of women compared to men in their community.
Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.
A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing, even in terms of compassion.
The Noble Qur'an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.
Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity.
Official statistics suggest they constitute 12 percent of the 12 million population but the Muslim Mother body Muslim Association of Malawi say they are over 36 percent.
"Polygamy isn�t too bad as people have made it to look like," Banda believes.�
Many, particularly Muslims, refute feminists claims that polygamy is to blame for the spread of AIDS and domestic violence.
"Government records show plainly that AIDS spreads mainly because of promiscuity and not marrying more than one wife," insists Sheikh Uthman.
About 14 percent of Malawi's population is infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, according to official figures.
There are about 78,000 AIDS-related deaths and 100,000 new infections every year.
Muslims contend that polygamy can work as a tool to address the pandemic in the country.
"Polygamy isn�t too bad as people have made it to look like," Marriam Banda, a secretary at an Islamic Charity in Blantyre, told IOL.
"In fact these days, it�s much better for a loving husband to marry a legitimate second wife than to flirt around with prostitutes," she explained.
"It�s a gamble with life especially with HIV/AIDS taking its toll here."�