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 (http://awid.org/eng/Issues-and-Analysis/Library/It-s-about-sex-and-it-s-...)