“My life has become so complicated,” complains Abu Osman. Like thousands of polygamous Kuwaitis, this forty-something-year-old man is struggling to divide his time between two wives, which is not easy due to the strict quarantine in connection with the pandemic of the new coronavirus.
Osman says that in order to meet the needs of his two households and his ten children, he is “constantly on the move” because it is difficult for him to choose which of his two wives to stay with.
In the Persian Gulf, Kuwait is the country with the strictest measures to combat the spread of Kovid-19. According to official data, more than 15,000 cases of infection have been identified in the country, and 118 of those infected have died. Authorities imposed complete isolation by May 30th, suspending all but the most important activities. In order for a person to go somewhere, he must have prior permission and for a limited time.
An electronic system for visiting other wives was introduced for men with more than one wife last week. Visits to “other” wives, however, are reduced to one hour, two days a week.
“Urgent family reason”
Since 2006, Abu Osman has had two wives who live in houses in the predominantly Bedouin Al Jahra district, west of the capital. Islam allows men to have up to four wives, provided they treat each of them equally. In most Muslim countries, however, this practice is limited – in 1956, Tunisia became the first Arab country to ban polygamy.
Kuwait has the highest number of polygamous men in the Gulf countries – 8.13% of all married men, according to a study by the International Institute for Family Studies in Doha for the period 2010-2015.
Abu Uthman, who says he does not want either of his two wives to feel neglected, constantly dreams between his two families, sometimes breaking curfew.
“It happened that the police stopped me, other times they showed understanding,” he said, explaining that before the introduction of permits to visit wives, he resorted to permits for “urgent family reasons.”
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The controversial issue has not escaped public attention. “Equal treatment of wives is a matter of money and good manners, not sexual relations and love,” Ahmed al-Kurdi, a member of the fatwa committee (opinions of Muslim clerics on a theological or legal issue based on Islamic law) at the ministry, told the press. of waqfs and Islamic issues.
According to him, a husband who is blocked by one of his wives from curfew has two options: to get the approval of his / her other spouses or to “give a divorce” to those who can ask for it.
Another member of the same committee, Isa Zaki, went so far as to advise men to “determine by lot” the wife they would stay with during quarantine, and after the restrictions were lifted, to “compensate” their other wives by spending the same number of nights with them.
“Stay with me”
Abu Osman has one advantage: his two wives live nearby, in the same area. However, this is not the case with 35-year-old Abu Abdelaziz, who lives with his parents, his second wife and their two children in Al Jahra, while his first wife and their three children live in the Saad al-Abdallah area, 15 kilometers away.
“For the first time, I don’t see any of my children because of the quarantine,” Abu Abdelaziz told AFP. “I don’t want to risk being arrested by my first wife. That’s why I decided to stay with my second wife,” he explains.
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People who do not comply with the restrictive measures face up to three months in prison and fines of up to 15,000 euros.
“However, I made sure that my first wife and children had everything they needed,” said Abu Abdelaziz, who said his first wife was “understanding.” She confirms her husband’s words, but still notes that she feels neglected. “He could have chosen to stay with me,” she said bitterly, wanting her name not to be mentioned.