Senegalese women challenge paternal authority

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Women of the Democratic Union of Teachers (UDEN) in Senegal have circulated a petition questioning the dominant right of the husband over children born to wedded couples.
The UDEN women are intent on collecting a million signatures confront the government of Senegal, where working women are not entitled to family allowances and other social emoluments.
They are also taking exception to the fact at her death, heirs of the woman may not benefit from any death gratuities, nor are her minor children are not taken into account in the calculation of her pension.
"In other words," the petitioners observe, "the Senegalese woman is not considered as a citizen in her own right," even though women were breadwinners in about a quarter of the country's households, urban and rural alike.
This, owing to the difficult economic times marked by unemployment and male immigration.
Hence the women's clamour for a share in conjugal and parental responsibilities - but more especially, entitlements.
In their petition, the lady teachers are calling on the authorities to revise Article 152 and others of the Family Code "to enable women to enjoy the natural right to exercise legal authority over their children, ensure the security of their children through coverage at the level of the Social Security Fund and to take in charge of their husbands as need arise in conjugal solidarity.
" Some provisions of the family code, namely Article 152 which designates the husband as being the family head, irk the women.
Notable too is Article 277 that vests paternal authority on the father.
"These two provisions constitute a flagrant discrimination against us," the women charge.
Senegal signed and ratified the UN Convention against all forms of discrimination against women, and its new constitution adopted last January reasserts equality between men and women, the UDEN feminine activists recall in their petition.
They further assert that "no religious argument justifies this attitude towards us, especially concerning our own children," adding that "by depriving us of maternal authority, it is our very maternity that is denied.
" The petition is being circulated to women associations and human rights organisations, and its authors plan, upon obtaining the millionth signature, to march to, and hand their plea to the President of the Republic.
"It is a question of showing the authorities that public opinion is ready in this country to grant women great responsibilities," one of the initiators quipped.

20 june 2001 08:35:00

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