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SENEGAL: Polygamy is a constraint on women.


Living in a country like Senegal that allows polygamy to men, up to 4 wives, does not mean that Senegalese women generally approve of it. They live with the situation, resigned to their fate imposed by an inhumane and inegalitarian law.

History teaches us a refusal or a fear of certain slaves to free themselves for fear of the unknown, because of the habit to servitude, or lack of self-esteem and confidence. The mechanisms of domination present in slavery are also seen in the monogamic but above all polygamic MARRIAGE.

According to one of my interviewees, the comparison above is wrong. For him, slavery is imposed while women have the possibility to leave or stay in marriage if they want to.

So my question is: can we talk about choices when the offer of polygamous or monogamous status is intended only for men on the day of marriage, the latter being the first one who is asked the question? And it is only afterwards that the woman is asked (often in precarious economic conditions) whether she accepts her husband’s choice of monogamy or polygamy. Polygamy is a constraint on women in Senegal. To say that it’s their choice is a real denial of gender inequalities. Inequalities of right and dignity that seal a union in which one is at the mercy of the other on an affective, economic,  and family level. Senegalese men are unable to apply reciprocity in matters of polygamy. For them, women deprived of power in polygamy, who remain there for survival, are in accord with polygamy. What lack of empathy and lucidity! They do not have the choice to even perform strategies of survival, competition of the best spouse even between them.

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It is sad to see today the inhibition of many Senegalese men with whom I talked regarding the acknowledgment of equality in dignity and in law between the sexes. They argue for complementarity instead of equality. But complementarity only makes sense when both parties have the same dignity and rights. Otherwise, it is a veil to mask an unequal power relationship where the scapegoat is the most vulnerable: the woman.

Other examples from the arguments of my interlocutor: “Slavery is not chosen deliberately; it’s a forced condition, whereas marriage stems, in principle, from a conscious choice (if one goes beyond the concept of “forced marriage”). Slaves can’t free themselves when they want; In marriage one can leave when one wants, in principle “.

In my opinion, these inequalities that we are talking about must be put on the table and discussed. For it can not be said that woman and man must be equal everywhere. It is a utopia. That is why the concept of “complementarity” suits me much more. ”

By Salimata Ndoye Sall


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