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Withholding "Love" in Times of War

Just last week, I read an interesting article about a one-week sex boycott taking place in Kenya by a local women’s movement called the Gender 10 (G10).

The boycott was in direct response to feuding within the country’s coalition government, similar to Liberian women who, in 2003, vowed to go on a sex strike until a truce was declared amongst key players in the nation’s civil war. This strike, and other strategies employed by the women, was an influencing factor in putting an end to a lengthy war in Liberia.

After Kenya held its elections in December 2007, many civilians disputed the results and in early 2008, in order to halt the conflict, a coalition government was formed, with the serving President retaining his position and his primary challenger in the elections assuming the role of the nation’s Prime Minister.

Since this time, the relationship between the two has been tumultuous, with continual arguments about the role and status of the Prime Minister in relation to the President. The fear that Kenya could revert to armed conflict has weighed heavily on its civilians, particularly women.

In light of the G10’s frustration with their government’s infighting, and their concern over the toll the conflict has taken on women including their powerlessness and voicelessnes, the G10 formed an agenda (see below) and vowed to withhold sex from their partners (focusing on heterosexual relationships) as a sign of protest.

My fascination lies in the ongoing debate – even after the G10 called a successful end to the boycott – that surrounds the boycott, and whether sex should be used as a tool to meet the demands of the agenda.

Those who have criticized the boycott argue that by refraining from sex in order to make a statement, the G10 has, in effect, legitimized the portrayal of women as sex objects. Conversely, it could be taken that a sex boycott is evidence that women have control over their bodies and that the choice to abstain from sexual activity is theirs and theirs alone.

Still, I am left to wonder what prolonged national change will take place as a result of a week-long sex boycott, and what conditions are in place as to whether the boycott continues or not.

If, after a week, issues are not properly addressed and resolutions are not in sight, does this boycott continue and, if so, for how long? And if politicians choose to listen and concede to the G10’s demands, will women’s bodies be viewed merely as instruments for negotiation? When the boycott is over, do these women simply submit themselves to their partners, once again fulfilling their prophecy as objects of sexual desire?

Do you think sex (or lack, thereof) should be used as a tool to evoke change?

I know there are many members from Kenya on this forum, and so I would be very interested to hear from them concerning this matter. Furthermore, any additional information and/or clarification on this issue would be welcomed.



* I would like to acknowledge and thank the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) for bringing this to my attention (



Greetings! This has been a hot topic on PulseWire of late. Here are some other posts:

I just added all your posts to the Kenyan group:

Maybe a lively discussion will ensue!


Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

From the moment I read about this boycott on BBC, I was very skeptical and openly criticized the gesture. Although I had not though about it in the light of women manipulating their bodies as objects, I think you make a valid point in your argument, and strongly hold on to my earlier skepticism on a sex boycott. I think that there are definitely better ways to bring together women in the fight against failed governance but a sex boycott is definitely not one of the solutions.

Makena's picture

sex boycott

I really support the sex boycott if the idea was employed that if the men did not get anything done during that week that the boycott would continue until change was one. I think that this is a really radical move for Kenyan women because under the old constitution a woman could not be raped by her husband, she had no right to say no. Further it was unlikely that a single woman who had been sexually active could file for rape, her credibility was flawed according to that consitution and new constitution has really been able to move forward because of the gridlock between these two men described in previous articles. this gridlock has made it difficult for all kinds of things to happen and in the meantime the people are suffering including women and children to a massive degree.

Women have long used such tactics to influence men who have held the power in many societies. I think that if the men do not listen to the voices of the women and children, do not pay attention to the sight of the suffering of society, to the will of the people in an election,then it is necessary to take action that impact the man's ability to meet his needs. A sex boycott can be a very effective tactic.

As far as the sex object question, the woman is deciding at great risk how she wishes to use her body, and is using it as an extension of her will. Sometimes, when all else has failed you use what you have left, your body, your will, your mind, your spirit at that point that is all that matters.

Here's to overcoming.

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