This article originally appeared on VICE UK
If Britain's families are broken then one man thinks he has the cure. Azad Chaiwala, a 33-year-old entrepreneur, reckons polygamy is the way to rid ourselves of the "immoral relationships" that he sees as responsible for 42 percent of marriages in the UK ending in divorce. He started up two polygamy matchmaking sites—secondwife.com, exclusive to Muslims, and the newer polygamy.com—but when I ring him to talk about them, he seems to have forgotten about our scheduled chat.
"It wasn't that we forgot," he says, sounding a little breathless, "but we have a rogue employee who… anyway, hi, how are you? Sorry about the abrupt, not-knowing-what's-happening intro."
I tell him I'm well, and am eager to find out what it's like to have gone from a childhood in Manchester to becoming owner of the match.com for the UK's polygamists. Though he currently only has one wife, he remembers picking up an affinity for a non-traditional family structure decades ago. "I was 12 when I came out of the polygamy closet," he says. "It was purely something that came out of me." He then decided he wanted to help spread that lifestyle to other consenting adults, through his matchmaking websites. Here's the whole story.
VICE: Hey Azad, you're the proud owner of the polygamy.com website. What made you want to start this project?
Azad Chaiwala: An an entrepreneur, I've always done things that are financially led. I've come to a stage where I'm like, Look, you can continue earning money but what use is it just piling it up? This was something close to my heart—I'm a polygamist myself, and believe in it—so I there was a business as well as a cause looking right at me.
What's the cause in polygamy?
To remove the taboo behind it. To make it an openly acceptable form of having a relationship.
What do you mean by that?
If you were to stop anyone on the street today and talk about polygamy, they would be in shock and think it was something horrendous, something women hate. Men being misogynists, etc etc. That's what people would be likely to think, right?
That may not always be the case, but yes, most people probably think it's gross and understand that it's illegal.
Right. So I want to prove that it's far from that, that it's appealing to women and honorable. Something that keeps families together, rather than breaking them apart, and is honest. I want to prove that society already practices polygamy—80 percent of society—except they do it in a really demeaning, immoral way.
Not sure where you're getting that "80 percent" stat from but anyway, where does morality come into people's sexual activity?
As humans, we're divided into two, right? Males and females?
Well, that's disputed, for example by non-binary people.
But there's more women than men in the world, right? That's a fact. And we have a nature: men are more sexually orientated and women are more emotional and caring, nurturing.
Isn't that a myth used to justify how men have an "urge" that women don't?
Some women do, but the vast majority don't. They're more into raising families, motherhood, emotion, and a deeper connection in relationships. Whereas men are more superficial.
That sounds like a bit of a stereotype.
OK, if it's just a stereotype, what percentage of prostitutes are men? You're saying that this is some sort of notion I'm building up, that women aren't just emotional. Everything so far, with the way I talk about immoral relationships, is down to women being exploited, women being prostitutes, or the dancers in strip clubs. Women are the girlfriends, the mistresses who are left behind after the man has his sexual gratification. If it was entirely women's choice as well, I would say, "awesome."
But instead I say stop exploiting women, man up and say, "Let's cater to men's sexual nature in an honorable manner." Because not every man is driven by his sexual nature: men want to have children, to have families. At the end of the day you have to remember that on the majority of days we have more women signing up—rates as high as 70 percent.
How are you finding that the number of signups to polygamy.com compares to those on secondwife.com?
Secondwife.com is far from it. You have a preconceived notion, a prejudice, exactly like I did, where I thought we were going to have three or four percent of women and 95 percent of men signing up.
I don't have a prejudice. I'm asking you a question about how signups compare on the two sites.
Well, OK, I'll admit I had that prejudice. I honestly thought we were going to have a 95 percent ratio in favor of men. When we launched secondwife.com that prejudice was destroyed in days: we had about women up making 25 to 30 percent of all members. I was shocked. Then we saw that there were people of other faiths outside Islam who wanted to sign up, and I thought, 'Let's start polygamy.com.' And now that's open to Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics—whoever you are. And that's where we saw a much higher rate of subscription.
How much did the polygamy.com domain cost?
Er … £2,000. No, Secondwife.com cost … [someone in the background starts raising their voice unintelligibly] £22,000 and polygamy.com cost £18,000. But we had part of a deal. We gave a very extreme domain something in the range of £44,000 [$58,000] for that domain, but today polygamy.com is probably worth more like £50,000 [$66,000].
So what's the ultimate goal in setting up the site?
Changing people's perception of polygamy. If I can do that, and bring more family stability, happiness, and a large support system infrastructure, I'll be happy. And in the end, I'm a Muslim and I'm rewarded for doing good. So I hope that when I die, my creator will reward me with something better than what I had in this world in return. It's almost like I get my religious kick out of it, I get my business kick out of it and I also get a lot of thank-you letters.
The thing is, right, the gay community had critics. The black community, when they were enslaved, had critics. Every nation that's been oppressed or not given their rights, has critics, otherwise they would have just been granted their rights. What I'm offering is a man with many wives. If somebody wants to have a website which is like a free-for-all—and many of those exist, in any nightclub or swinger's club—you can do that. What I'm offering is decency, I'm offering something that's more in tune with nature. And if you're going to turn around and ask why women can't get more husbands on this site, I'd say definitely not on my website. But if someone else wants to set up that website, then by all means, go do it. But this is a niche, it's a business.
Hmmm, OK. Thanks for your time Azad.
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