Senegal: Polygamy is a Form of Modern Slavery
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 5:10 PM

Although there are no official statistics on polygamous marriage in Senegal, it appears to be an increasing trend. According to one social worker and gender activist, the practice, which was widespread in rural areas in the past, is increasing in urban areas. She added that abuse is also on the increase, mostly in Dakar, where polygamists are becoming younger and younger. Most young men who were interviewed in Dakar said that they would choose polygamy when they married. The women in polygamous marriages are often not allowed to speak to strangers, neighbors, women’s rights advocates, or marriage counselors about their marital problems. They are not allowed to complain as long as they have food, clothes, and sex.

Most women who are in polygamous marriages are illiterate and unaware of women’s rights. According to the Global Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum, Senegal ranks 102nd out of 134 countries in the position of women as compared to men in economic participation and opportunity, education, political empowerment, and health and survival. Although Senegal enacted a gender parity law in 2010 and almost half of the newly elected members of parliament are women, 61 percent of women lack basic literacy skills. Polygamy continues to play a big role in the lack of progress regarding women’s emancipation in Senegal.

Compiled from: Sikti da Silva, Issa, “Polygamy Throttles Women in Senegal,” Inter Press Service (September 12. 2012).