While polygamy is practised in many cultures scattered around different regions of the world, polyandry on the other hand has become almost extinct, with only a handful of unique places still practising it.
However, many cases of polyandry have recorded in the past in several countries and in many variations.
Briefly.co.za takes you through five countries in which polyandry was - and in some cases, still is - practised.
The Irigwe people living on the western edge of Plateau, Jos are a unique people numbering around 17,000. This small number are known to be ardent subscribers of polyandry and it comes as no surprise, as their distinctive language and social traditions set them apart from neighbouring tribes.
The Irigwe people of Nigeria practised polyandry for many decades until it was outlawed in 1968. Prior to that, women were allowed to have 'co-husbands' and moved freely from one man's house to another, having multiple spouses, and their children’s paternity was assigned to the husband whose house the woman lived in at the time.
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. It is believed that several cases of polyandry have been recorded among the tribe. However, today this practice is usually abandoned.
Polyandry was practised in Jaunsar-Bawar in Uttarakhand. A distinct group of people called Paharis live in the lower ranges of Himalayas in Northern India from southeastern Kashmir all the way through Nepal.
It was also mainly prevalent in the Kinnaur region, a part of Himachal in India, which is close to the Tibetan - or currently the Indo-China - border.
An early example can be found in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, in which Draupadi, daughter of the king of Panchala, is married to five brothers.
Apart from Kinnaur, polyandry was practised in South India among the Todas tribes of Nilgiris, Nanjanad Vellala of Travancore and some Nair castes. While polyandrous unions have disappeared from the traditions of many of the groups and tribes, it is still practised by some Paharis, especially in the Jaunsar-Bawar region in Northern India.
The Tibetan people in the Nepal parts of China practised polyandry up until 1960 after they were annexed by the People's Republic of China. They practised what is labelled 'fraternal polyandry', in which the husbands a woman settles with are mostly brothers of one family.
Concern over which children are fathered by which brother falls on the wife alone.
5. South America
The Bororo are an indigenous people of Brazil, living in the state of Mato Grosso, who practised polyandry.
The Tupi people, who also practised, polyandry were one of the most numerous peoples indigenous to Brazil, before colonisation. Scholars believe that while they first settled in the Amazon rainforest, from about 2,900 years ago the Tupi started to migrate southward and gradually occupied the Atlantic coast of Southeast Brazil.
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