Senegal: A study on legal barriers to young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services

A new law, preventing schools from expelling pregnant girls, has begun to positively change perceptions, showing that law and social norms can reinforce each other. However, the intersection between law and culture in Senegal is largely creating rather than removing barriers. The prohibition of abortion and the criminalisation of homosexuality present direct legal barriers to SRH access with a profound impact on the health, safety and lives of young women and LGBT people. Other barriers are created by:

  • cultural beliefs about sexual activity, age of consent, and the different status of married and unmarried women where they intersect with the law, and different interpretations of the law
  • the use of laws that could be protective, to criminalise consenting relationships
  • the gap between the prohibition (legal and social) of sexual activity and the reality of young people’s sex lives
  • ambivalence of service providers towards supporting young people’s access
  • widespread gender discrimination, leading to perceptions about spousal and paternal consent for women to access services, which don’t reflect the actual law
  • sex education which is biological and preventive, which reinforces an abstinence message but doesn’t address relationships or the law
  • no legal guarantee of maternity care for young pregnant women
  • cultural endorsement of men’s sexual dominance and male violence resulting in a lack of legal recognition of marital rape and a failure to implement the law in other cases of GBV and sexual violence

Includes:

  • Implications for law and policy on a broad range of factors impacting access