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I'm asking specifically about the practice of polyandry in Himalayan civilisations, such as Bhutan. But I'd welcome insights from other polyandrous societies too.


It's often been said that, however inhumane polygyny, i.e. a husband having multiple wives, might be for the women involved, the situation is even worse for the vast majority of men. A man with a hundred and one wives means a hundred men without a wife; and polygynous societies - be they Saudi Arabian or Mormon fundamentalist - always seem to have grave problems with large numbers of frustrated young men.

Polyandry, i.e. a wife having multiple husbands, always seemed, on the contrary, to be a humane and reasonable response to the pressures polyandrous societies faced: as far as I can tell, the root of it is the scarcity of good arable land. But what about the young women who have to go without a husband? Are there any structures in polyandrous societies which give such women a place and a path in life? Are unmarried women feared in polyandrous societies in the same way in which unmarried men are feared in polygynous societies? Men being men - I am a man, so I should know! - I find it hard to believe that all these women die virgins; but do they?


A side question: How do polyandrous societies choose which women are allowed to marry? In polygynous societies, the wealthiest, older men tend to get their pick of brides. Do polyandrous societies tend to select the prettiest girls, or is it that only each family's eldest daughter is permitted to marry? Or is some other system used?

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    It is my understanding that there are no really polyandrous societies; reported ones later proved to be either fantasies, mistakes or frauds. I'm certainly not an expert on this, though. – antlersoft Jul 1 '20 at 12:55
  • I've rephrased my question in line with the suggestions made above. – Tom Hosker Jul 1 '20 at 13:35
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    @antlersoft No, polyandry in Tibet is the most well-documented example, but there are many others. It is exceptional, you might even say rare, but it clearly does exist. – Brian Z Jul 1 '20 at 13:35
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    @TomHosker There is a book The other side of polyandry: property, stratification, and nonmarriage in the Nepal Himalayas that would probably answer your question if you can find it. – Brian Z Jul 1 '20 at 13:38
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    Perhaps you should emphasise the Tibetan part in this, and re-title to "What happened to women left behind by polyandry in the Tibetian societies?"? Close votes are mustering... – gktscrk Jul 1 '20 at 19:25