Roundtable on polygamy causes stir in Senegal

A happy Robert Chauke (50) with his 6 wives and some of his 26 children at his home in a small compound outside Johannesburg. In Senegal, about 80 per cent of all marriages are polygamous. PHOTO | FILE 

An upcoming roundtable conference on polygamy in Dakar is causing a stir as the majority Muslims suspect the organisers are pushing for the practice to be made illegal.

Their suspicions have been raised by the profile of the organisers who many Senegalese see as too westernised in lifestyle.

The event is to be held on February 6 and is being organised by the Institute for African studies at the Dakar University headed by sociology professor Dr Fatou Binetou Dial.

The panellists include the outspoken lawyer Fatoumata Gueye, who is also the secretary-general of women jurists in the country.

“They are not going to make polygamy illegal here (Senegal) while their counterparts are trying to make homosexual marriage legal in France,” says Bouba Diop, a Dakar resident.

He said he knows several Senegalese in Dakar and in France who desire to have homosexual marriages legalised.

Mr Diop, 48, who lives in one of Dakar’s sprawling suburb of Pekine told Africa Review that he is married to four wives “in keeping with the teaching of Islam”.

“If they are going to legalise anti-Islamic homosexuality in France, then they should leave polygamous marriage alone in Senegal,” he insisted.

A press release by the organisers of the roundtable said it will only discuss the "evolution, forms and perspectives" of polygamy in Senegal.

But Mr Diop argued that the planned roundtable conference is a “dirty....event and we are not going to sit down and allow that to happen”.

Ms Ndeye Fatou Ndiaye, a university female student in her final year told Africa Review that “it was time this obnoxious polygamous society begins to think twice.”

Analysts believe that over 80 per cent of marriages in the predominantly Muslim country are polygamous with over a quarter of the men married to more than three wives.

Demographic data for 2012 indicates that slightly more than half of Senegal’s 12.9 million population are women and that the 16-64 year bracket has about 3.6 million women compared to 3.2 million men.

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