By Senegalese Feminist Activists
Translated from French to English by Dr. Rama Salla Dieng
May 26, 2023
The fight for women’s rights in Senegal remains a fight that is certainly endless, but for which we do not shirk at any time. At the international level, Senegal is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its optional protocol. At the African level, Senegal is one of the signatory States to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, known as the Maputo Protocol.
The Constitution and laws of Senegal guarantee equality between women and men. Achieving the criminalization of rape in 2019 was a fight carried by all the living forces, women’s and feminist organizations of this country. The men and women leaders who claim to hold positions of responsibility are and will guarantee strict respect for these conventions and laws which guarantee the rights and dignity of the populations. But in practice, what does it look like?
The case in which the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko is accused of rape against Adji Sarr has been in the news for two long years and prompts us to question ourselves.
The hearing on May 22, which took place in the absence of the accused Ousmane Sonko, is a perfect illustration of this. While Ndeye Khady Ndiaye, one of the co-accused in the trial despite her advanced state of pregnancy, presented herself, Ousmane Sonko, deigned to go to court. In one of the problematic speeches full of intolerable remarks given on Wednesday evening May 24, Sonko said in Wolof:
“If I were to rape, it would certainly not be a monkey victim of a stroke ( dangin bu AVC ). “I don’t lack options to choose from”, a statement he refrained from in the French version of his speech.
Beyond proving notorious, in line with the culture of racist and sexist stereotypes, these comments reinforce and normalize the culture of rape and are unworthy of a man who aspires to the highest office in our country. While one woman in three (1/3) is a victim of violence and abuse of all kinds, including sexual, only one woman in four (1/4) dares to initiate legal proceedings to seek compensation in Senegal. Despite the country finally criminalising rape in 2019, survivors are already facing many obstacles including; cumbersome procedures, unsupported management of their traumas, and the scarcity of shelters, to name but a few.
These remarks throw to the public the idea that there’s such a thing as a ‘perfect rape victim’. All persons, no matter their background and status can be victims of rape.
That Sonko’s words were eagerly received and adored by a population mainly made up of young people is a grave concern, particularly for survivors of rape. His audience and the country cannot be encouraged by leaders to promote the trivialization of an unjustifiable and heinous crime against which generations of women fought and continue to fight.
What is more, through his remarks, Sonko’s shortcomings on several emergencies and concerns of Senegalese and Africans are exposed. Indeed, comparing Adji Sarr to a “Monkey” is a misogynous stereotype, a label that has historically been used by racist supremacists to degenerate and dehumanize Black people across the world. To use such a qualifier on a Senegalese woman is degrading and the worst insult at a time when Black people all over the world are still fighting for our humanity against racial prejudice and racist violence.
Also, stroke is one of the most common neurological diseases in Senegal which wreaks havoc among the population with the human, social and economic costs. Men and women are surviving at the cost of physical damage and disability. Sonko’s remarks demonstrate an ableist discourse that reinforces the stigmatization of those who suffer from stroke.
We welcome the holding of the trial and believe in the calls for a free and fair quest for justice. We salute the courage and resilience of Adji Sarr. Despite ostracism, demonization and death threats, she has held on. Every citizen deserves justice. Nothing justifies rape.
We call on all feminist and women’s rights organizations and opinion leaders to condemn these dehumanizing and insulting comments towards women.
Women’s rights are inalienable human rights. Let’s work in their defense!
Collectively signed by:
Women’s Rights Organisations and Collectives:
#Senegal Feminist Network (RFS)
#Collective of Feminists of Senegal
Dr. Absa Gassama, Teacher Researcher
Ndeye Fatou Kane, Feminist, PhD student
Dr.Selly Ba, Feminist, Sociologist
Fatou Warkha Sambe, Journalist, Co-ordinator of the RFS
Coumba Ba, Feminist
Ndeye Khady Babou Co-coordinator of the RFS
Mamyto Nakamura, Director, President of JigeenRek Louga
Amina Seck author, Screenwriter
Eva Rassoul, Journalist, communicator
Fatimata Diallo Teacher, Author
Astou fall Gueye, Teacher-Researcher
Dieynaba Famanta, Communicator
Adama Pouye, Feminist, media librarian and communicator
Aicha Manga, Feminist, human rights defender
Sabé Wane, Jurist
Wasso Tounkara, Feminist, trainer in creative activism
Awa Seck, Designer, President GANAI
Dieynaba Diémé, Jurist, African Feminist Institute
Woppa Diallo, Legal specialist in human rights, gender and education
Tamara Dieng, Feminist Auto-entrepreneur, African Feminist Institute
Ngoné Sarr, Bajenu Gox
Marième Faye, feminist, Artist-actress
Marina Kabou, Jurist, Dafa Doy Collective
Ndeye Yacine Faye, Communicator, defender of women’s rights
Edith Dibor Faye, Feminist
Seynabou Sy Ndiaye, Feminist, Sociologist
Maimouna Siby, Feminist, Defender of Women’s and Children’s Rights
Khaita Sylla, feminist
Zipporah Ndione, Jurist, Feminist
Dr. Odome Angone, Teacher-researcher
Abdoul Gaye, Engineer
Aminata Libain Mbengue, Radical Feminist
Khadija Tida Dansokho, Teacher
Kaya Sy, Advocacy Coordinator, Feminist
Laïty Fary Ndiaye, Sociologist, Co-founder of the Jama collective
Fatou Kiné Diouf, Designer, Co-founder of the Jama collective
Maimouna Astou Yade, Radical Feminist, Director of JGEN
Amy Sakho, Jurist-Feminist
Gnylane Thiam, Business Manager
Khaira Thiam, Clinical-Psyschologist, Radical Feminist
Dr. Rama Salla Dieng, feminist, academic
Original text in french: https://www.enligne.sn/proces-sonko-adji-sarr-les-feministes-tapent-du-poing-sur-la-table/