Volume 37 Number 5
Published: October 1, 2006
Drawing on grassroots activism by the women’s rights NGO GAMCOTRAP (Gambian Committee on Traditional Practices), this article considers contested forms of sexuality in the Gambia. Among these are polygamy, early marriage, sexual abuse, female genital mutilation, marital/statutory rape, forced retirement by spouse from sex due to menopause, trafficking in women, and lesbianism. Arguments relating to Gambian culture and Islam are central to the contestations around these issues. For example, some men cite articles in the Koran as justifying polygamy, and many women accept this as their right. In fact, the Koran condones polygamy only where all wives are treated with equal justice, a condition it describes as impossible, thus monogamy can be inferred to be the recommended course of action. The reality is that many women suffer when their husbands take other wives. The author cites grievances, for example men’s material contributions decrease, and they may also cease having sex with older wives leaving them unsatisfied but unable to leave the marriage or seek sex elsewhere due to social and economic constraints.