EXPLAINERThe bill to make polygyny legal in the West African state has sparked a debate online and offline over women’s rights.On June 30, a member of the Ivorian parliament introduced a bill to legalise polygamy, claiming that the practice remains widespread across regions in the country and ought to be legally permitted.
Yacouba Sangaré, the MP who proposed the change, described the current matrimonial legislation in Ivory Coast as “a generalised hypocrisy”.
The elected member of the ruling The Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) party filed a bill to amend a June 2019 law that stipulates that “no one may contract a new marriage before the first one is dissolved” and that sole state officials have the authority to legalise a union.
But the proposal has since sparked outrage among women’s rights organisations and feminist groups who have dubbed it a step back in the fight against gender inequality.
Marriage in Ivory Coast
Since 1964, a strict monogamous system has been the proscribed form of marriage in the country, even though polygamous marriages contracted before that date are still deemed legal. So traditional ceremonies that often involve a dowry for wives other than the first one, are not recognised by law.
But even though polygamy has declined in recent years it is still widely practised in sub-Saharan Africa, with a 10th of the population living in polygamous households, according to a 2019 study conduc …