In the past, women in Senegal did not have many rights, if any. But that situation is beginning to change as stipulations have been put out. However, these demands have been continuously violated by men who still believe that women should have certain traditional roles in society.
The most repugnant of these violations are forced marriage, genital mutilation, widespread violence against women, limited access to education, employment and decision-making positions, in the work or in the house. The government has been working toward making women’s rights in Senegal a priority.
Improvements in Women’s Rights in Senegal
Slowly, but surely, Senegalian women are getting more of a say in societal matters. Women have been appointed to decision-making positions, especially in the legal field, but they are still very under-represented in public and political affairs and need to become a larger voice in the public sphere.
In 1999, the Criminal Code was revised to make tougher penalties for crimes against women. This revision allows for the punishment of previously unrecognized crimes, such as incest, rape, sexual harassment, excision and domestic violence.
The National Strategy for Gender Equality was implemented between 2005 and 2015, concentrating on increasing women’s status in society, improving their capability, improving their economic position and setting up workshops to start the conversation in order to raise awareness about the issues that are prevalent to Senegalian society.
These three achievements have led Senegalian women one step closer to gender equality, but much more needs to be done in order to fix this sizable issue.
Current Status of Women’s Rights in Senegal
The Senegalian constitution says that all human beings are equal before the law and that men and women have equal rights. Women’s basic socio-economic rights are spelled out here, but they are not always followed through with. In most instances, men feel that they have power over their partners or co-workers based on the simple prejudice that they are not equal.
Some aspects of women’s rights have been improving, but there is still a huge discrepancy between what the law states and the reality for the Senegalian woman. Women are still viewed as second-class citizens.
In Senegal, the traditional view of society is still a reality, which is why it is difficult for women to get a say and be more prominent in the public sector of their communities. Men are raised up and women are pushed down, but changes to this are in process.
Barriers to Gender Equality
One of the largest impediments to gender equality in Senegal is forced marriage. This violation of human rights has been outlawed by the constitution, prohibited by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa of 2003, this issue is still very prevalent in Senegal society.
Another impediment to gender equality in Senegal is violence against women. This includes domestic violence, rape, the criminalization of abortion, discriminatory practices in access to economic resources and the silencing of women and girls in the in important decision-making processes.
What is Being Done and What Needs to Be Done
In order to break this tradition of inequality, women need to have more self-sufficiency, they need to have proper training and information sessions and they need to conduct economic activities to guarantee their sustainable economic progress and to ensure their access to justice without discrimination.
In terms of the criminalization of abortion, the Working Group strongly supports the current bill that aims to expand abortion in cases of incest and rape. The entirety of this West African country needs to work together in order to solve the huge issue of women not getting the rights that they deserve and that are promised by the law.
There continues to be growing support of women’s rights in Senegal, as well as a growing opposition to harmful traditional and cultural practices. However, there is a perception that the issue of gender inequality is the agenda of political leaders, which is completely false. This issue has been relevant to politicians only during election season.
In order for further improve women’s rights in Senegal, women need powerful allies and legislative measures to be put into action. Poverty legislation could be put to great use in order to give women a leg up in their communities. Every available resource needs to be tapped in order to achieve equality of men and women in Senegal.
– Megan Maxwell