November 28, 2022

politics of law

Politics and Law

Ivorian bill that would legalise polygamy for men earns the ire of women’s groups

5 min read

A proposed monthly bill at the Ivorian parliament that would legalise polygamy – but only for men – has prompted powerful reactions from women’s legal rights advocates, which have dubbed it a stage back in the combat for equality. Polygamy is prohibited in a lot of components of the environment but continues to be popular in West African nations around the world.

“We just cannot legalise polygamy to fulfill a man’s libido,” legal professional Désirée Okobé says bluntly. Okobé is based mostly in Abidjan and is a single of the women who have spoken out from MP Yacouba Sangaré’s monthly bill to legalise polygamy in the West African region.

“A person chooses to have much more than 1 wife for own, egotistical explanations. Opening this door would conclude up generating an imbalance in our modern society,” Okobé says in a telephone job interview.  

According to her and various women’s rights activists in the region, legalising polygamy would be a setback for Ivorian girls who nonetheless facial area systemic inequalities and discrimination.

The UN Commission on Human Legal rights considers the follow discriminatory from ladies and has termed for its eradication.

Polygamy is common in Subsaharan Africa

Although polygamy has declined globally in the very last 10 years it stays widespread in West Africa. 

It is most greatly practiced in sub-Saharan Africa – by 11% of the populace on regular, according to a 2019 survey performed by the Pew Exploration Centre. The charge of polygamous unions in Ivory Coast is slightly larger at 12%.

Sangaré has dependent his job on these stats, arguing for polygamy to become a authorized selection given that the 1964 law that only recognises monogamy has tested ineffective, he suggests.

“Across regions and irrespective of religious history, polygamy is frequent in Ivory Coastline. Men have numerous wives and communities accept that. So special monogamy doesn’t match with our realities, our customs. We can’t just duplicate-paste laws that was set in area in Western nations. We have to give individuals the selection,” he argues.  

Study has revealed that prior to the arrival of colonists and Christianity in pieces of Africa, polygyny – which authorized gentlemen to acquire much more than a person spouse – existed below loved ones law. It helped avoid divorces because of to infertility and was a reaction to an imbalance in the ratio of females and gentlemen.  

Sangaré claims that the intention driving the invoice is made to safeguard females who have no lawful rights under “traditional” marriages. A June 2019 legislation stipulates that “no one might enter into a new marriage before the very first one is dissolved” and that only condition officials have the authority to legalise a union. The legislation hence invalidated standard marriages, for which a contract is normally concluded by way of a dowry. If the partnership ends, females have no correct to claim payment from their husband or wife. 

“Legislation is needed to shield gals. If their spouse dies, they are left in this authorized vacuum,” Sangaré says. He went on to argue that monogamy “incentivizes” divorce, considering that gentlemen who want various partners are much more possible to depart their wives and households if polygamy is not allowed. 

Okobée agrees that far more laws is desired to secure gals but she rejects the thought that this monthly bill was drafted with women’s pursuits in intellect.

“It’s an excuse to justify the unjustifiable. This is not for girls. This is all about guys obtaining their way,” she suggests.

Women’s legal rights organisations in Ivory Coastline say they will struggle the bill and do every little thing they can to avert it from getting to be component of the legislation. Previous solidarity and women’s legal rights minister Constance Yai has been one of the most vocal critics of Sangare’s prepare.

Double standard?

“There is no these detail as polygamy in Ivory Coastline. There are guys who have many mistresses,” she claimed in a press convention organised by the Ivorian League of Women’s Legal rights.

She stressed that the doc is in contradiction with the 2016 structure, which states that “all Ivorians are born and stay free and equal in legislation no just one can be privileged or discriminated in opposition to mainly because of their race, ethnicity, clan, tribe or gender”. 

The UN Commission on Human Legal rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination in opposition to Gals look at that polygamous marriages discriminate against women of all ages and have encouraged their prohibition.

In observe, women in polygamous unions have constrained legal rights and tend to act more submissively than women in monogamous unions, Okobé says.

“Our culture tends to make females truly feel that they have to be in a household with a spouse to have standing. But we need to be telling girls that they can build on their personal: They need to be empowered at all amounts. How does sharing a partner with other gals and the danger of a new 1 coming alongside empower females? It doesn’t. It is degrading.”

Women’s rights activists have pointed out a double typical, as the bill proposes to legalise polygyny only and not polyandry.  

”Male polygamy is not the only form of union achievable. But would we be able of assuming woman polygamy as perfectly, to abide by the principle of equivalent rights for females and men?” requested Constance Yai for the duration of a July 11 press convention, prompting applause from the event’s organisers.

Feminism ‘imported from the West’

But her stance has obtained combined reactions on the web from Ivorians, who do not all subscribe to the strategy of perfect equality between gentlemen and girls.

“Feminism is imported from the West. We have our individual established of [cultural] values. If a guy can have two or three wives, it doesn’t essentially mean that a girl ought to have the same suitable. It wouldn’t operate. It would generate chaos,” claims Issa in the course of a heated discussion with his mates at a bar in Abidjan.

In Okobé’s opinion, systemic patriarchy is at the root of the rejection of feminism. “People’s frame of mind requirements to modify. This ‘boys will be boys’ trope is what has enabled men to continue to keep the previous purchase in area and to continue to keep suppressing girls. As a substitute of saying that it’s in a man’s character to hunt and have numerous partners, let us educate boys – but also girls and women of all ages, so they fully grasp why gender equality is so critical.”

The controversial polygamy invoice however has to go as a result of many levels before it can be introduced and place to a parliamentary vote.

“The constitutional court also has to give its viewpoint, so we’re considerably from the complete line. It could acquire wherever between 5 months to five a long time,” says Sangaré.

“But this will not prevent us. I feel in this invoice. The whole controversy all over it will eventually blow more than.”

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