Senegal: Victory for the progressives but not so for Senegalese women

Civil society organizations succeed in keeping Family Law intact in Senegal.
Senegalese civil society groups were heartened when President Wade, on a recent visit to Japan, declared at a press conference that he and his party (which forms the majority in Parliament) were opposed to any changes to the Family Code. This follows a proposal made to President Wade in May 2003 by a vocal coalition of Senegalese Muslim Associations, who demanded the government adopt a new Family Code based on Muslim laws (Sharia).
Though the Presidents declaration in Japan makes Senegalese civil society confident that he will keep his promise not to introduce a new Family Code, the victory is diluted for women. This has two advantages for the President as he can now claim to support women's rights concerns by not introducing a Family Code based on Muslim laws, whilst ignoring their long-standing demand to amend the Code to include equality between husbands and wives. Civil society groups feel that President Wade will now claim that religious leaders and Muslim associations would never accept such an amendment. Women will be expected to be grateful that a Family Code based on Muslim laws was not introduced and thus will be unable to lobby hard for their other demands.

The group of civil society organizations that came together to fight the proposal appreciate the international support they received. They also acknowledge that the threatened proposal has made them more aware of the rising strength of fundamentalisms in Senegal.