Taboo-breaking TV soap on sex and women has Senegal in a lather


Cheikh hoists his second wife Mareme onto his shoulder and carries her to their rose petal-covered bed, where he lays her down.

The frolicking couple embrace and…. what happens next is left to the viewer’s imagination as the camera suddenly switches to a pair of white slippers, the bedroom door closes and the scene ends.

In soap operas in other parts of the world, such coy depictions of sex would be considered unremarkable, even dreary.

But in conservative Senegal, where even an on-screen kiss is rare, the self-described monitors of public morality are in uproar.

The show – “Maitresse d’un homme marie” (“Mistress of a married man”) – has also already been cautioned by the state’s media watchdog for being too racy.

But defenders say the soap takes a desperately-needed look at relationship issues such as male abuse, the pain experienced by abandoned spouses and a woman’s right to sexual pleasure.

“Maitresse d’un homme marie” follows five young women characters, all strong-minded, freewheeling city dwellers.

Some start affairs with married men and – as in the case of Mareme – end up marrying them.

‘Cast judgement’ 

In Dakar’s Sicap Liberte 3 district, the Sene family is glued to its TV for the twice-a-week show.

In between adverts blaring out the virtues of a brand of local rice, bubbly single mother Rose condemns the threat of censorship hanging over her favourite programme.

“Maitresse”, she says, holds up a mirror to hypocrisy and inequality in Senegal.

“Men who criticise the series are the same ones who have mistresses and what they do to them is far worse than what you see on the screen,” she said.

“They cast judgement on the women (in the show) because they are single, because they are in charge of their lives,” said Rose.

“In Senegal, if you are not married by the time you are 30, you are not a good woman. In this country, it doesn’t matter even if you’re a huge success, if you’re not a man, you’re nothing.”


Launched in January, the show goes out at prime time on the commercial channel 2STV and is also avidly followed on YouTube, where each episode is watched between one and two million times.

Devotion to the series is such that one actor was slapped by an elderly woman while exercising.

“She told him, ‘Stop drinking and look after your family’,” the show’s executive producer, Kalista Sy, recounted, with a giggle.

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