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Suzanne Brenner

In July 2003, a lavish award ceremony was held at a five-star hotel in Jakarta. At the Polygamy Awards, as it was called, the financial sponsor and master of ceremonies, a wealthy entrepreneur named Puspo Wardoyo, handed out awards to several dozen Indonesian men who, in the view of the selection committee, had upheld the high moral and religious standards needed to be a successful polygamist. The idea of the ceremony was to bring polygamy and its practitioners out of the closet, so to speak, and to celebrate polygamy’s virtue as a respected Islamic tradition that should be a source of pride rather than shame for both men and women. Puspo Wardoyo, the jovial president of the Indonesian Polygamy Society (Masyarakat Poligami Indonesia), had embarked upon a highly publicized crusade to popularize polygamy. Although legal with some restrictions for Muslim men in Indonesia, polygamy had a social taint to it that Puspo and others like him wanted to see erased. “A man who can afford it financially and who is of good character has the duty to have more than one wife. Polygamy is the most praiseworthy of actions … I want to spread the polygamy virus,” he commented in a magazine interview.