Yamoussoukro. – A proposed bill at the Ivorian parliament that would legalise polygamy – but only for men – has prompted strong reactions from women’s rights advocates, who have dubbed it a step back in the fight for equality.
Polygamy remains widespread in West African countries.
“We can’t legalise polygamy to satisfy a man’s libido,” legal expert Désirée Okobé says bluntly. Okobé is based in Abidjan and is one of the women who have spoken out against MP Yacouba Sangaré’s bill to legalise polygamy in the West African country.
“A man chooses to have more than one wife for personal, egotistical reasons. Opening this door would end up creating an imbalance in our society,” said Okobé.
According to her and several women’s rights activists in the country, legalising polygamy would be a setback for Ivorian women who still face systemic inequalities and discrimination.
The UN Commission on Human Rights considers the practice discriminatory against women and has called for its eradication.
Although polygamy has declined globally in the last decade it remains common in West Africa.
It is most widely practiced in sub-Saharan Africa – by 11 percent of the population on average, according to a 2019 survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre. The rate of polygamous unions in Ivory Coast is slightly higher at 12 percent.
Sangaré has based his project on these stats, arguing for polygamy to become a legal option since the 1964 law that only recognises monogamy has proven inef