Tuesday, 6 May 2003

Dakar (Fides Service) – Increasingly heated the debate in Senegal with regard to a new family code. A number of Muslim associations aim to include rules of Islamic law; a possibility which meets with opposition from Christians and various associations of women in Senegal.
Not a day passes without some article in the press for or against the application of Muslim law to the code of the family. In front line are women, Christians and Muslims, defending their rights with intelligence and courage. “Sharia law as it is applied in most Arab and African countries, oppresses women,” says Aminata Diagne a Muslim. “Perhaps in the 7th century the Sharia liberated women but it is difficult to day that as it is today, it liberates Arab women and Senegalese women. For example according to Sharia a daughter inherits half the amount accorded to a son and this was progress in the 7th century when women did not inherit at all. But it is an obvious step backwards for Diola women (in Senegal converted in the 19th century) who before the advent of Islam in Senegal inherited all the land.”
Angelique Savane, a prominent Catholic woman in Senegal agrees, emphasising that the Sharia is a threat to a secular state: “When religion is used for political ends deep fractures are provoked”. Ms Savane says “the present day family code of 1973 which is a model for all African countries with the possibility of options it offers, gives citizens the faculty of choosing the system of law more in keeping with personal convictions. This new move is a threat to the secular nature of state which is a constitutional principle through which the state strives to strengthen national unity, democracy and access of citizens to resources and to guarantee their quality before the law”.
In the present situation Ms Savane says, “the state must shoulder its responsibility to affirm the republican and secular nature of Senegal and stop these ambitions to destabilise society. It is necessary to strengthen factors of integration by promoting civic education, citizens rights and protection of groups more exposed to oppression and discrimination”. LM (Fides Service 6/5/2003 EM lines 34 Words: 435)

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