A proposed bill at the Ivorian parliament that would legalise polygamy – but only for men – has prompted strong reactions from women’s rights advocates, which have dubbed it a step back in the fight for equality. Polygamy is prohibited in many parts of the world but remains widespread in West African countries
Feminists across the country are strongly opposed to a majority lawmaker’s bill that the current matrimonial regime is “hypocrisy.”
“There is no polygamy in Côte d’Ivoire, there are men who have several mistresses. Say it in their own words, these are people who feel upset about fidelity in the household! Constance Yaï, former Ivorian Minister for Solidarity and the Advancement of Women, did not hide her anger on Monday July 11, during a press conference organized by the Ivorian League for Women’s Rights.
This pioneer of Ivorian feminism protested against the bill on the optional legalization of polygamy, tabled on June 30 in the National Assembly by Yacouba Sangaré, deputy of the presidential majority (RHDP).
The parliamentarian, elected in the Abidjan commune of Koumassi, wishes to challenge the monogamous marriage instituted in the country in 1964. He wants to give the possibility of having several spouses in agreement with the future bridegroom. A modification of the law on marriage supposed, according to him, to be more in tune with the reality of the country.
“Polygamy is a taboo subject in our society when it is experienced daily”, assures the RHDP deputy, who says he has been carrying out sociological surveys and working on the subject since 2014. He believes that it is practiced by customary law “in all regions of Côte d’Ivoire, all social strata, all religions”.
According to him, if the law which imposes monogamy is not applied without entailing sanctions, “it means that society tolerates it”.
The MP, who presented his proposal to the press on July 7 in the company of several male colleagues, also claims to have many supporters, including women, in Parliament and does not intend to back down in the face of opposition.
The lawmaker argued that, it is also a question of protecting the wives. “Sometimes the situation is known and seen by everyone, the co-wife is part of the family, but she is in absolute precariousness because she is not married”, he justifies, affirming that the regime current matrimonial relationship is “hypocrisy”.
“Perhaps, but lifting this ban is not the right solution, retorts Bintou Mariam Traoré, feminist activist member of the League, famous for her hashtag #vraiefemmeafricaine which flooded social networks in March 2020 in order to denounce and to make fun of the injunctions made to the women of the continent. Rather, the focus should be on controlling and penalizing those men who marry multiple wives