People are allowed freedom of expression, and the government allows independent thought to flourish. Independent Senegalese media often criticizes the government. There are roughly twenty independent radio stations like Walf FM, and over twelve independent newspapers including L’Info and Le Matin, among others.
Additionally, however, there are three government related newspapers, and the government owns the only national television channel. Despite this high ratio of independent to state media, even the independent media is self-censoring to a certain extent. Rather than controlling all forms of media, the Senegalese government has laws that prevent and stifle the “discrediting of the state,” and the production of “false news.” After Senegal’s top independent radio station, Sud FM, interviewed Salif Adio, a leader of a rebellion against the Senegalese government, the government shut down the radio station for several hours.
People with internet access can use it freely. According to the Association for Progressive Communications, Senegal has the third highest internet connectivity in Africa, and the best developed telecommunication infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2002, around 11% of the nation had internet access, and that figure has been steadily rising. This internet usage allows for many websites and blogs such as Seneweb.com, which feature political commentary. Writers like Seckasysteme and Robert Sagna use the internet to criticize and express their views on migration policies, among others topics.
But some internet censorship does occur. In 2004 Christian Costeaux, (webmaster of www.senegalaisement.com, a tourist information website) posted a news article, which claimed that a Senegalese mayor’s aids had embezzled 153,000 euros. The Senegalese mayor then convicted Costeaux of libel for harming the mayor’s reputation. As a result of the conviction, Costeaux was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 915,000 euros.
Senegal, 94% Muslim, generally respects freedom of religion. 4% of the population follows Roman Catholicism, and their beliefs are not restricted by the government. Indeed, there is no state religion, and the Constitution defines the country as a secular state.
The government gives aid to different religious groups. Government grants occur especially in order for religious groups to maintain their places of worship and to establish schools. The Roman Catholic sect has been the most successful at drawing funds for the latter goal. Interestingly, the majority of students at Roman Catholic schools are Muslims, and the government forbids religious education or worship in public schools. Private schools are given the ability to do what they want in regards to religion.
Relations between the majority Islamic sect and the Christian minority are generally peaceful and friendly. Intermarriage between members of the two different religions is allowed, and members of one religion are allowed to date members of another.
Religion also plays a role in constricting other freedoms. Girls are often criticized for dressing in western clothing if it interferes with values of Islamic modesty. As a result, girls may wear sarongs over western attire while in the streets.
Government Granted “Rights of Age”
Senegalese teenagers can vote once they are 18 year olds.
There is no drinking age, so any teenager can technically drink. However, in a predominantly Muslim nation that respects Islamic law, teenagers, and people in general, are expected not to drink.
Conscription is selective, although military participation is principally voluntary.
Health, Sexuality, and Dating Habits
In Dakar, the capital, teenagers enjoy dancing at clubs. The clubs usually play traditional Senegalese and Africa dance music, and sometimes European pop. Even in large cities like Dakar, which can be potentially dangerous, parents allow teens to go out because they feel that with large families, the siblings will look out for one another.
Senegalese teens also enjoy watching movies. Single screen movie theatres play American, European and Hindi films. While Senegalese films are rarely if ever shown at movie theatres, they can be rented or watched on TV; many families watch videos at home together.
Senegalese teens also love playing sports. The majority of Senegalese teens prefer playing soccer to any other sport, and they often play soccer in the streets. Senegalese teens also enjoy playing basketball.
Dating in the Western sense is rare.
Families usually play some role in finding marital partners, especially in rural areas. Polygamy is relatively common in the older generation (50% of men over 50, only 15% of men under 40)