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poly-, "many" and ἀνήρ anēr, "man") is a form of polygamy in which a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time.
Polyandry is contrasted with polygyny, involving one male and two or more females.
An extreme gender imbalance has been suggested as a justification for polyandry.
For example, the selective abortion of female fetuses in India has led to a significant margin in sex ratio and, it has been suggested, results in related men "sharing" a wife.
If a marriage involves a plural number of "husbands and wives" participants of each gender, then it can be called polyamory, In its broadest use, polyandry refers to sexual relations with multiple males within or without marriage.
Of the 1,231 societies listed in the 1980 Ethnographic Atlas, 186 were found to be monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry.
Primogeniture maintained family estates intact over generations by permitting only one heir per generation.
Polyandry in Tibet was a common practice and continues to a lesser extent today.
Polyandry has been practised in several parts of India, such as Rajasthan, Ladakh and Zanskar, in the Jaunsar-Bawar region in Uttarakhand, among the Toda of South India. There is at least one reference to polyandry in the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata.
It is also encountered in some regions of Yunnan and Sichuan regions of China, among the Mosuo people in China, and in some sub-Saharan African such as the Maasai people in Kenya and northern Tanzania According to inscriptions describing the reforms of the Sumerian king Urukagina of Lagash (ca. Draupadi married the five Pandava brothers, as this is what she chose in a previous life.
The system results in less land fragmentation, a diversification of domestic economic activities, and lower population growth.
Fraternal polyandry (from the Latin frater—brother), also called adelphic polyandry, is a form of polyandry in which a woman is married to two or more men who are one another's brothers.