Senegal, Republic of


*Please note this is just a draft and all contents are still under revision.*


Legal Table
Legal Text

Legal System/History

Legal system is based on the French civil law system. Independence from France in 1960.

Prior to enactment of Family Code in 1972, family relations were governed by Christian, Islamic and customary laws, or under civil code. Work on codification of uniform personal status law began in 1961 with comprehensive listing of customary laws applied in Senegal, ending with publication of 68 officially recognised customary regimes. Family Code drafted by Commission for codification passed into law and came into force January 1st 1973. Family Code regulates marriage, divorce, succession and custody, with separate section for Muslim succession law.

As of 1993, government established working group to adapt national legislation to conform with international instruments ratified by Senegal.

School(s) of Fiqh

Majority of population is Maliki. Minority of population follows indigenous religions or is Christian (mainly Roman Catholic).

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law)

Constitution adopted 3rd March 1963; revised numerous times. Article 1 declares that Senegal is a secular state.

Court System

Senegal took steps to abolish separate customary courts and establish unified judicial system after independence in 1960.

Tribunals of first instance and assize courts decisions appealable to courts of appeal. Court of Cassation is highest appellate court.

Relevant Legislation

Family Code 1972, amended in 1974, 1979, 1989

Notable Features

Marriage Age: minimum marriage age is 20 years for males and 16 for females; judicial discretion for permitting underage marriages for serious reasons

Marriage Guardianship: each party must give free consent, even minors, and parties under 21 require parental consent; lack of free consent or parental consent are grounds for nullification of marriage

Marriage Registration: obligatory; if marriage contracted under one of customary legal regimes recognised in Senegalese law, parties must inform officer of civil status one month prior to marriage; non-registration is punishable by fine but does not determine validity

Polygamy: permitted; groom must register his option for monogamous, limited polygamous or polygamous (up to four wives) regime upon registration of first marriage, and option is for life; wives entitled to equal treatment in polygamous unions

Obedience/Maintenance: husband identified as head of family; choice of residence lies with husband, and wife is required to live with him, unless a judge has authorised her to live elsewhere as a result of danger to herself or her children; although maintenance is defined as obligation of both spouses during subsistence of marriage, the obligation is principally that of the husband and failure to maintain is provided as grounds for wife to seek dissolution

Talaq: extra-judicial divorce not permitted

Judicial Divorce: either party may seek judicial dissolution on following grounds (preceded by reconciliation efforts by judge): other party’s declared absence; adultery; sentencing for crime bringing dishonour to family; failure to fulfil legal condition stipulated upon marriage; abandonment of family or conjugal home; maltreatment rendering continuation of marital life impossible; medically established sterility; grave and incurable illness discovered since marriage; incompatibility making continuation of conjugal life intolerable; and for wife, failure to maintain on part of husband

Post-Divorce Maintenance/Financial Arrangements: in case husband sought divorce on grounds of incompatibility or incurable illness of wife, obligation to maintain is transformed to obligation to pay alimony; in case divorce is judged to be exclusive fault of one party, judge may grant other party compensation

Child Custody and Guardianship: custody is determined by judgement of court and may be granted to either party or to third party according to best interests of ward; whichever parent has custody, the father is the guardian unless he is unable to fulfill this role

Succession: governed by classical law as outlined in Section III on Muslim succession in Book VII of Family Code; includes provision for only granddaughters through predeceased sons not standing to inherit as residuary heirs from anyone else to receive one-sixth of estate

Notable Cases

 

Law/Case Reporting System

Law reporting is through Journal Officiel.

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations)

ICCPR & ICESCR – signature 1970, ratification 1978, without reservations

CEDAW – signature 1980, ratification 1985, without reservations

CRC – signature & ratification 1990, without reservations

Legal History:

The legal system is based on the French civil law system. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960. Prior to the enactment of the Family Code in 1972, family relations were governed by Christian, Islamic and customary laws, or under the civil code. Work on codification of a uniform personal status law began in 1961 with a comprehensive listing of customary laws applied in Senegal, and the publication of 68 officially recognised customary regimes. A commission for codification was established in 1961 and began by issuing a questionnaire investigating customary practices. A 27-member committee was given the task of drafting a single code for all Senegalese that would minimise any aspects not uniformly applicable, would be appropriate to modern social conditions, would compromise on matters likely to cause conflict between traditional laws and modern statutes, and observe proscriptions related to family law in the Qur’an.

The Family Code that was drafted passed into law and came into force January 1st 1973. The Code regulates marriage, divorce, succession and custody, with separate section for Muslim succession law. As of 1993, the government established a working group to adapt national legislation to conform with the international instruments ratified by Senegal.

Schools of Fiqh:  The majority of the population is Maliki Muslim. A minority of the population follows indigenous religions or is Christian (mainly Roman Catholic).

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law): The Constitution was adopted on 3rd March 1963 and has been revised numerous times. Article 1 declares that Senegal is a secular state.

Court System: Senegal took steps to abolish separate customary courts and establish a unified judicial system after independence in 1960. Tribunals of first instance and assize courts’ decisions are appealable to courts of appeal. The Supreme Court or Court of Cassation is the highest appellate court.  

Notable Features: The minimum marriage age is 20 years for males and 16 for females, with provision for judicial discretion for permitting underage marriages for serious reasons. Each party must give free consent, even minors, and parties under 21 years require parental consent. Lack of free consent or parental consent is grounds for nullification of marriage.

Marriage registration is obligatory. If a marriage is to be contracted under one of the customary regimes recognised in Senegalese law, the parties must inform the officer of civil status one month prior to the marriage. Non-registration is punishable by a fine but does not determine the validity of a marriage.

Polygamy is permitted, but the groom must register his option for a monogamous, limited polygamous or polygamous (up to four wives) regime upon the registration of his first marriage, and the option is for life. It may only be altered to lower the number of wives further. Wives are entitled to equal treatment in polygamous unions.

The husband is identified as the head of the family.  The choice of residence lies with the husband, and the wife is required to live with him, unless she is authorised by a judge to reside elsewhere. Although maintenance is defined as an obligation of both spouses during the subsistence of marriage, the obligation is principally that of the husband and his failure to maintain is provided as a grounds for the wife to seek dissolution.  Since the 1989 reforms of the Family Code, the husband has not been permitted to forbid his wife from working.

Extra-judicial divorce is not permitted. Either party may seek a judicial dissolution on the following grounds (preceded by reconciliation efforts by the judge): the other party’s declared absence; adultery; sentencing for a crime bringing dishonour to the family; failure to fulfil a legal condition stipulated upon marriage; abandonment of the family or conjugal home; maltreatment rendering continuation of marital life impossible; medically established sterility; grave and incurable illness discovered since marriage; incompatibility making continuation of conjugal life intolerable; and for the wife, the husband’s failure to maintain her. In case the husband sought the divorce on grounds of incompatibility or incurable illness of the wife, the obligation to maintain is transformed to obligation to pay alimony. In case the divorce is judged to be the exclusive fault of one party, the judge may grant the other party appropriate compensation.

Custody is determined by judgement of the court and may be granted to either party or to a third party according to the best interests of ward.  Whichever parent has custody, the father is the guardian, unless he is unable to fulfill this role.

Succession is governed by classical law as outlined in Section III on Muslim succession in Book VII of Family Code. The laws applicable to Muslim intestate succession include a provision for only granddaughters through predeceased sons not standing to inherit as residuary heirs from anyone else to receive one-sixth of the grandparent’s estate.

Notable Cases:

Law/Case Reporting System: Law reporting is through the Journal Officiel.

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations): Senegal signed the ICCPR and ICESCR in 1970 and ratified them in 1978, without reservations.

Senegal signed the CEDAW in 1980 and ratified it in 1985, without reservations.

Senegal signed the CRC in and ratified it in 1990, without reservations.

Background and Sources: CEDAW, Concluding Observations: Senegal’s Second Periodic Report to CEDAW, January 1995; Ndiaye, Le Divorce et la Séparation de Corps, Dakar, 1979; Ndoye, Code de la Famille Annoté, Dakar, 1996; Ndoye, La Cour de Cassation au Sénégal: Les Textes Annotés et Commentés, Dakar, 1992; Redden, "Senegal," Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia, Vol. 6, Buffalo, N.Y., 1990; Sowsidibe, "Senegal: Evolving Family Law," 32 U. Louisville J. Fam. L. 421, 1994, Human Rights Committee, Fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 1995: Senegal, November 1996.