An unusual precedent: two wives of the President of Senegal in the government palace

Dakar – (AFP)

In an unusual scene in the Senegalese political arena, Basserou Diomaye Faye, minutes before the end of the country’s presidential election campaign, took deliberate steps on the podium, holding the hands of his wives, Marie and Absa.

After thousands of supporters applauded him, the “candidate for estrangement and African unity” publicly revealed his polygamy, a traditional and religious practice deeply rooted in Senegalese culture, before his victory in the first round of the presidential elections with 54.28% of the votes.

Mary Khun, the first woman he married fifteen years ago, with whom he has four children, comes from his village, and he married the second woman, Absa, about a year ago.

Sociologist Debi Diakhat said: “It is a consecration of the tradition of polygamy at the top of the state hierarchy in a situation consistent with Senegalese reality,” noting that this practice is popular with many men, but it arouses the ire of many women.

Polygamy has always sparked controversy in this country, which is more than 90% Muslim, but Fay’s public appearance surrounded by his two wives brought the issue up for discussion again in the media, on social networking sites, and even within families, which generated mixed reactions.

Fatou Sous Sar, a famous expert in sociology, said on the “X” platform that “polygamy, monogamy, and polyandry are marital models determined by the history of each people.” Before she hastened to write another post on the same site, saying: “I strongly believe that the West has no capacity to judge our cultures.”

However, many women in Senegal oppose this practice, and consider it false and unfair towards them. A report prepared by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and published in 2022 concluded that polygamy constitutes discrimination against women and must be abolished.

Senegalese writer Mariama Bah strongly criticized polygamy in her famous novel A Very Long Letter, published in 1979.

In it, she recounted a wife’s suffering of pain and loneliness after her husband became involved with a young woman, and her being forced to accept this marriage, which is a difficult situation that many Senegalese women suffer from.

Many Senegalese series that have gained wide popularity in recent years have dealt with the disturbances and tensions that families suffer from as a result, such as “polygamy.”

Former Minister of Culture and history professor Binda Mbo said that the new situation in the presidential palace was “absolutely unprecedented.” Until now, there has been only one first lady. This means that the entire protocol must be reviewed.”

Polygamy is widespread in Senegal, especially in rural areas, where a large number of Senegalese see it as a means of expanding their families.

Although it is difficult to determine the number of marriages, because many of them are not registered, 32.5% of Senegalese have adopted polygamy, according to the latest report issued by the National Center for Statistics and Census.

Diakhat believed that Fay sent “a strong signal to other men to reveal their polygamy and show transparency like him” with “the firm desire to reduce the practice of hidden polygamy.”

In response to his critics, Senegal’s new president is taking full responsibility for his polygamy.

He declared during the presidential election campaign, “I have beautiful children, because I have two wonderful wives. They are very beautiful.” I thank God because they always stand by my side.”

By Editor

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