Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Husbands, in the past few weeks, killed three wives in Senegal, where a current study reveals that 78 percent of women suffer various forms of domestic violence.
Senegalese men, renowned for being "courteous" and "caring" outside their country, seem to reserve their gallantry for outsiders, unless their reputation is a "fraud", and just a lesser evil compared to more barbaric treatment of women on the African continent.
At any rate, the phenomenon of marital violence is increasingly causing anger among women, who held protests in early September in the Senegalese cities of Dakar, Thies (central) and Tambacounda (east).
In Dakar, the women, including First Lady Viviane Wade, marched to the Presidential Palace where they presented a memorandum to President Abdoulaye Wade.
"Marital violence is a real scourge in Senegal," said Safietou Diop, chairperson of the national women's organisation called "Siggil Jigeen" (Honouring Women in Senegal's widely spoken Wolof).
A recent study by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Dakar and Kaolak shows that 78 percent of women in the country have experienced some form of marital violence, including physical, moral, economic, sexual and verbal.
The report blames bad temper and/or bad habits, problems of education, women's refusal to be submissive, early sex due to forced marriages, drinking and drugs for provoking domestic violence in the country.
Psycho-sociologists believe that the situation stems from the perception, in African cultures, of the nature of relations between husband and wife, which places the husband as the "master of the household, the boss with all the rights over the family".
The conception is all the more legitimate in the eyes of some Senegalese men since the limited education of their wives generally condemns the latter to sometimes enslaved or extremely dependent on men.
By fully depending on their husbands, Senegalese women are in fact renouncing any economic independence and any effort to assert their identity.
Others contend that it is the high amounts paid in bride price -- often difficult to refund -- which nurtures in the men's minds a feeling of ownership of women, whom they married after paying millions in various gifts.
"A man who pays one or two million francs in dowry is sometimes inclined to think, albeit wrongfully, that he has bought his wife.
Therefore, he cannot understand when she refuses to let him use her as he sees fit.
" many observers believe.
Whatever the pretexts and justifications offered to explain or legitimise marital violence, Senegalese women have decided to no longer accept it, and to fight it with determination.
By taking their case to the President, they asked for "effective implementation of the Act of 13 January 1999, which provides for no palliating circumstances, no invocation of crime of passion, nor suspended sentences and no remission in cases of marital homicide".
They warned to "take civil action in cases of violence of serious abuse against the dignity and physical integrity of women".
Senegalese women are also demanding a revision of the family code, in which "some provisions are contrary to the Convention on the eradication of all forms of discrimination against women and to their human rights".
Their demands include the replacement of paternal power with parental authority; equality of all in access to resources, opportunities and services; full exercise of divorced women's rights to have custody of their children.
Women account for more than half of Senegal's population of about 10 million people, according to unofficial sources.