Mauritania is located in Northwestern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal, Mali, Algeria and Western Sahara. The Constitution established Mauritania as an Islamic republic and decrees that Islam is the religion of its citizens and the State, and the Government accordingly limits freedom of religion. Shari' a law, proclaimed under a previous government in 1983, includes the Koranic prohibition against apostasy, but it has never been enforced. The country experiences ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.
Women have the right to vote, and formed the majority of voters in the 1997 presidential election, but are underrepresented in government. Women occupy some senior government positions, including three cabinet posts, one secretary-general, two senior presidential advisors (including a Halpulaar), and four senior advisors to ministers.
The Constitution provides for equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of race, national origin, sex, or social status, and prohibits racial or ethnic propaganda. In practice the Government often favors individuals on the basis of ethnic and tribal affiliation, social status, and political ties. Societal discrimination against women, strongly rooted in traditional society, is endemic, although the situation is improving. There are no legal restrictions on the education of girls and women. The law provides that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.
In practice polygyny is very rare among Moors but common among other ethnic groups. Arranged marriages are also increasingly rare, particularly among the Moor population.
25 percent of the women in Mauritania undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Among Halpulaar women, over 95 percent undergo FGM.
Life expectancy: Total population: 50.76 years
male: 48.7 years
female: 52.87 years (2000 est.)
Infant mortality: 78.15 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Alphabetization rate: Total population: 37.7%
female: 26.3% (1995 est.)
Medical services: 9.091 persons per doctor. 70% of total population has no access to health services.
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Religious data: Mauritania is homogenously Muslim. Of a population of 2,5 million, more than 99% are Muslims. Some 0,8% follow traditional African religions, while some 0,2% are Christians.