Unconventional Precedent: Two First Ladies of Senegal at the Presidential Palace

Senegalese President-Elect’s Polygamy Raises Controversies and Questions about Family Values in Africa

In a remarkable moment in Senegal’s political landscape, Basserou Diomaye Faye took the stage just minutes before the end of the country’s presidential election campaign. He held the hands of his wives, Marie and Absa, before receiving thunderous applause from thousands of supporters. It was then that he publicly revealed his polygamy, a traditional and religious practice deeply ingrained in Senegalese culture.

Faye’s decision to make his polygamy public sparked heated debates in the media, on social media, and among families. While polygamy is widely accepted by many men in Senegal, it has long been criticized by women as a form of discrimination against them. A report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2022 even went as far as to call for its abolition.

Senegalese writer Mariama Ba also weighed in on the issue in her novel “A Very Long Letter,” where she highlighted the struggles faced by women who are married to multiple men. Despite this, polygamy remains widespread in Senegal, particularly in rural areas where it is seen as a way to expand families.

Faye’s public display of polygamy has led some to question what will happen with multiple wives in the presidential palace. However, Faye has made no secret about his commitment to his family and has thanked his wives for their support throughout his campaign and beyond. He emphasizes that their relationship is one of love and respect above all else.

The election of a polygamous president has brought attention once again to the complexities and contradictions within Senegal’s cultural norms. While some see it as an opportunity for men to be more transparent about their relationships, others view it as yet another example of how gender inequality continues to persist in African societies today.

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