Growing Up Sexually



WOLOF (3,3,3,3+,4,4;2,2;C) (EHRAF) (SENEGAL







IndexAfricaSenegal→ Wolof



Data are somewhat contradictory. Ford and Beach (1951:p182)[1]stated that intercourse before puberty ceremonies are strictly forbidden to boys. However, according to Freimark (1911:p163)[2], it was not uncommon among the Senegalese Wolof to find premenarchal coitus[3]Ames (1953:p140): “Young people, including the boys who attend the bush circumcision school, are given no instruction in sexual techniques. They learn by experimentation beginning in childhood”. However, Faladé ([1960] 1963:p220)[4] observed that girls entering marriage (at 16 or after, but certainly after menarche) are “quite ignorant” of sexual matters. A marriage has to be annulled on account of the impotence of the husband. “This causes a good deal of anxiety among mothers on account of their boys, and it often happens that they will want to see that their little boys are capable of having an erection” (Faladé, 1963:p222; also p220).


Diop (1982:p190-8)[5] found that only 29 in 100 Dakar girls had been sexually educated before puberty, another 56 after. Senghor and Sow (1975:p237)[6] argue that “[…] l’éducation sexuelle est à peu près inexistente chez les Sérères, Walaf et Lébou car elle est réduite au comportement que la fillette devra plus tard adopter en tant qu’épouse”.


Chabas ([c1960]:p11-2)[7]:


“Today [ca 1960, DJ] this age is set by the decree of June 15, 1939, at 14 years for women and at 16 years for men. Previously, Ouolof custom set the age of the girl at 14 years, but some exemptions were admitted with the precaution that the marriage would not be consummated until the girl was nubile. The age of the man was generally set at more than 16 years with a range between 18 and 22 years. Since the rule is legally established today, it no longer gives rise to discussion. Nevertheless, practices which run contrary to the provisions of the public order of the decree continue to be followed”.


In one case the marriage of a fourteen year old girl was be annulled by the application of the provisions of the decree of June 15, 1939, but in order to sustain the validity of the marriage, the defence invoked the fact that the marriage had not yet been consummated and would not be until the girl reached the age of puberty. The Court of Dakar nevertheless annulled the marriage by citing verbatim the provisions of the 1939 decree which prescribes the annulment of any matrimonial agreement concerning a girl who has not reached puberty, whether she consents or not. It concludes: “Consequently, the marriage of a girl who has not reached puberty is declared null in the full legal sense”. Faladé, however, stated that premenarchal consummation was infrequently present.
















Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Op.cit.

[2] Freimark (1911), op.cit.

[3]Ames, D. W. (1953) Plural Marriage among the Wolof in the Gambia. PhD Thesis, Northwestern University. See p140

[4] Faladé, S. ([1960] 1963) Women of Dakar and the Surrounding Urban Area, in Paulme, D. (Ed.) Women of Africa. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p217-29

[5] Diop, A. B. (1982) Jeunes filles et femmes de Dakar, Bull Instit Fondament Afr Noire 44,1/2:163-212

[6] Senghor, R. & Sow, A. (1975) Le role d’éducatrice de la femme Africaine dans la civilation traditionelle, in La Civilisation de la Femme dans la Tradition Africaine: rencontre / organisée par la Société Africaine de Culture, Abidjan, 3-8 juillet 1972. Paris: Présence Africaine, p232-41

[7] Chabas, J. ([c1960]) Marriage and Divorce in the Customs of the Ouolof Inhabiting Large Towns in Senegal. [New Haven, Conn.: HRAF]