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Can Jamaicans Have Two Wives?
Is It Legal?

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marriage_officer_in_jamaica-edgar-wellesley-wedding-2011Can Jamaicans Have Two Wives? The Gayles' Wedding

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Can Jamaicans have 2 wives? Yes, we know it is common for Jamaican men to have multiple relationships at once. But if he were to make things official, could it be done with more than one partner?


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Some time ago, an episode of Paternity Court went viral in Jamaica as a man of Jamaican parentage claimed that it was common for Jamaican men to have up to 7 wives or girlfriends. This sparked outrage in Jamaica as it is actually illegal to be married to more than one person at a time.

Can Jamaicans have 2 wives?

At this point, there are no instances where a Jamaican can be legally married to more than one person at a time on the island as per Jamaican civil laws.

Bigamy is formally entering into one marriage while the previous one is un-dissolved and this is a criminal offence in Jamaica. Most of Jamaica’s laws were made with Christian values as the blueprint. In most Christian denominations, a person is allowed one partner and extra-marital activities are considered adultery.

While Jamaicans have been practising polyamory for years, it is only recently that many of these couples have been vocal about their lifestyle. It is not illegal as long as they remain unmarried or if only two members of the relationship are legally married.

One option, some persons take is to get married overseas, however, the second marriage will not be acknowledged in Jamaica.

While the culture of Jamaicans is to have multiple partners, particularly among males, men wanting to have more than one woman exists almost everywhere, in Jamaica, men are known to have multiple partners and sometimes the individuals involved will know of each other but decide to turn a blind eye especially if there are children in the equation.

But in most cases, knowing of an additional partner will cause a breakdown in the relationship and so, it is carefully hidden from the “main” person or sometimes the only person who is aware is the man.

There are many societal issues that we currently face because of this including single parenthood, absent fathers and multiple children mothered/fathered by different parents.

The latter is quite serious as many persons are unaware of their siblings until they are much older, sometimes adults.

This not only takes a toll on the women who have to find out years later that their partner fathered a child during their relationship, the ultimate proof of infidelity but children have gone years without any real connection to a family member as close as a sibling.

There are also cases of degrading or throwing blame on the “other woman” who is seen as the person at fault in most cases.

Is sex outside marriage a criminal offence in Jamaica?

No, it isn’t illegal to have sexual relations with another person in Jamaica.

Are extramarital affairs illegal in Jamaica?

No, it is not illegal to have extramarital relations in Jamaica. You will often see married persons have very committed relationships outside their marriages. While morals are called into question, it only becomes a legal issue if the second couple decides to get married without the others having divorced.

Are extramarital affairs illegal in Jamaica?

No, it is not illegal to have extramarital relations in Jamaica. You will often see married persons have very committed relationships outside their marriages. While morals are called into question, it only becomes a legal issue if the second couple decides to get married without the others having divorced.

Muslims in Jamaica

The religion of Islam allows for a man to have up to 4 wives, as long as he can provide for them equally in every way, not just financially. Although the religion allows this, they are still unable to practise this religious right in Jamaica as they would be breaking civil laws. There are no leniencies for polyamory in Jamaica, even for religious reasons.

It is customary in Jamaica to have a religious and civil ceremony at the same time. However, what some persons of the Islamic faith may do, is have one religious and civil ceremony and only have religious ceremonies for any marriages they may have down the line.

But, both parties of the second marriage and any marriages after that would have to operate under the knowledge that theirs is only a religious marriage and will not be acknowledged in legal settings.

This will only work for Muslims as Christians in Jamaica also believe in one marriage.

Many Jamaicans, men and women included, do not see Polyamory as a benefit of any sort. It is seen as blatant cheating and the women are usually pitied by the general public.

But members of the Islamic Council of Jamaica have made a few points for legalising polyamory in Jamaica.

From a religious standpoint, polyamorous couples who are of the Islamic faith will be held to a high standard and will be forced to be more responsible for their actions and for their partners' well-being.

There will be no reason to hide a new relationship or any children who come from this new union as they will be fully accepted by all the parties involved.

Infidelity would decrease as more persons would be able to have multiple partners.

The family would be able to pool resources and be better able to provide for all its members equally.

The issue of STIs would reduce as all potential sources of this issue can be contacted and the source is narrowed down in short order.

And finally, one of the main breakdowns of relationships in Jamaica is dishonesty and mistrust. If these relationships are out in the open and accepted, these issues would play less of a role in the breakdown of Jamaican marriages.

Persons are of opposing views as even though these may very well be positives, the argument can be made that some Jamaicans will take advantage of this should it become legal.

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References & Sources For Can Jamaicans Have Two Wives?

    The case for Polygamy (2015) In Focus | Jamaica Gleaner. Available at: https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20150614/case-polygamy (Accessed: November 27, 2022).
    'polygamy, solution to Jamaica's family crisis' (2015) Lead Stories | Jamaica Gleaner. Available at: https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20150604/polygamy-solution-jamaicas-family-crisis (Accessed: November 27, 2022).
    Team, J.A.-B.N. (2016) Many infuriated by man's claim that Jamaican men have multiple wives, Many Infuriated By Man's Claim That Jamaican Men Have Multiple Wives -. Available at: https://jablogz.com/2016/10/many-infuriated-by-mans-claim-that-jamaican-men-have-multiple-wives/ (Accessed: November 27, 2022).

Can Jamaicans Have Two Wives? | Written: November 27, 2022

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