Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Immigrants' second wives find few rights in France

Frank Renout:

Hoiloyo Diop (left) was helped by administrator Marie-Fran├žoise Savigny

Hoiloyo Diop is - as she calls herself time and again - "the second wife." She's also the mother of eight. Hers is not an easy situation, she says. "Every morning we line up in front of the bathroom door, waiting until the first wife has finished bathing herself and her children,'' she says, speaking with arms folded and eyes cast down. And it's a long wait - the first wife is the mother of nine.

In the evening, they stand in line again.

Diop, who is originally from Senegal, shares a five-room apartment in Les Mureaux, a city west of Paris, with her husband, his first wife, and their combined 17 children.

"Four of my children sleep in one room, the others share another room. That's no good. They wake up tired and have problems concentrating at school,'' she says. In France, Diop has discovered, a second wife has few rights - inside or outside the home.

Diop is one of many thousands of women in France today caught in a gap between African tradition and Western social and legal codes.

The French government estimates that there are somewhere between 8,000 and 15,000 polygamous families within its borders, originating from countries in Africa and the Middle East. These husbands married two or more women legally in their home country, and have, on average, 10 children.

France declared polygamy illegal in 1993. After that, officially, second wives were not allowed to enter the country for the purpose of reuniting with their husbands. But French authorities - whether from sympathy or other motives - have largely looked the other way and allowed many of the "second women" to enter the country and take up residency.

This leniency has created a unique set of problems because these women are not legal residents and have no rights. They are not allowed to work and they are not entitled to any form of social welfare.

As a result, they become totally dependent on their husbands. Many times they have no access to birth control and are not even allowed to leave the house.

Why the French don't deport these second wives is beyond me.


At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why the French don't deport these second wives is beyond me.

Along with the husbands and first wives...

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

France? We have the same problems here in the US. The Hmong hunter who killed 6 or 7 hunters in Wisconsin apparently was a polygamist since his "culture wife" was quoted in one news story.

When people tell me that if we legalize gay marriages, then we will end up with polygamy, I tell them we already have it. We just ignore it as we do other problems cause by massive third world immigration - legal and illegal.


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