chapter  18
31 Pages

Sexuality and Emancipation

ByCatherine Coquery-Vidrovitch

This chapter attempts to illuminate certain aspects concretely in areas that have been very insufficiently studied—sexuality and emancipation. African men's way of looking at women and the perception women have of themselves are imprinted with social ideologies that are often still extremely conservative. Anything concerning the essence of the feminine, whether it is little girls' upbringing, young women's initiation, or dominant beliefs about marriage or maternity or even death, is marked by a complicated heritage still felt heavily. Islam predominates: The legal code adopted since independence allows a choice, through contracts signed before marriage, between monogamy and polygamy with up to four wives. Islam did not reduce the frequency of divorce—quite the contrary, husbands could repudiate their wives extremely easily in predominantly Muslim areas. The chapter also discusses the painful subject of female genital mutilation, which is still very much alive in some societies. The origin of female genital mutilation is as vaguely denned as its distribution.