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Sex Strike in Togo: Lysistrata in West Africa

Sex Strike in Togo: Lysistrata in West Africa
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Never underestimate the power of sex or, rather, of not having sex. Women in Togo are being asked to refrain from sex for a week starting on Monday, to demand that protesters detained before elections in the West African nation be released. Activists also say that the sex strike “will motivate men who are not involved in the political movement to pursue its goals, which include an end to the system allowing unlimited presidential terms.”

For decades, Togo has been ruled by the family of President Faure Gnassingbe. The current president has been in power since 2005; he was reelected in 2010. His father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, ruled Togo for 38 years.

About 120 opposition supporters were arrested last week in clashes with security forces, says CNN. The government says that all but eight have been released, claiming that those still being held are “in possession of knives.” Togo is to hold parliamentary elections in October and demonstrators have been protesting in the streets of the capital of Lome to challenge new electoral reforms that are said to favor the ruling party.

A Sex Strike As a “Weapon of Battle”

Let’s Save Togo, a coalition made up of nine civil society groups and seven opposition parties and movements, has called for the sex strike. Telling the BBC that “We have many means to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo,” opposition leader Isabelle Ameganvi also said that sex can be a “weapon of battle” in efforts to make political change:

“I am inviting all women to observe a one-week sex strike, fasting and prayers to set our arrested brothers and husbands free. So all you ladies have to keep the gate of your ‘motherland’ locked up to all men from Monday up to Sunday.”

Ameganvi cited Liberian Nobel laureate and current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as an inspiration. In 2003, Sirleaf called on Liberian women to hold a sex strike to demand peace in wartime.

Women’s Bodies and Social and Political Change

The play Lysistrata by fifth-century BCE Greek comic playwright Aristophanes famously (and hilariously) depicts women going on a sex strike to urge men to cease fighting.

Aristophanes was actually a political conservative in ancient Athens and he may well have meant his female characters, earnestly calling for peace, as satirical commentary on the Athenian political climate of his day.

As CNN notes, in recent years, women have indeed found sex strikes to be a powerful civil disobedience tool. In 2009, Kenyan women called for a sex strike to “end bickering among coalition government officials.” In 2011, women in the Philippines’ rural Mindanao Island announced a sex strike to end violence among villagers.

Notably, women — real women in the 21st century and fictional creations in Aristophanes’ ancient play — are behind calls to ban sex to promote peace. The Ukrainian activist group FEMEN, which has held topless demonstrations to protest violence against women and to support or women’s rights around the world, has also shown how women can use their bodies as powerful instruments to stoke social and political change.

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Photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen

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44 comments

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6:10PM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Just like in the play from ancient Greece, Lysistrata. It's a very good thing ! Makes them think, and think about values. Well done ladies !

4:26AM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

I hope they achieve their purpose! Lysistrati is a good inspiration for all!!

12:37PM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

A load of women in nothing but red trousers....this is going to get em going eh....

5:25AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Good idea- only way to get men to listen...

8:20PM PDT on Aug 30, 2012

Steve R. You don't seem to be getting the point about the whole sex strike thing in Togo - it's about peace, not population. If you want women in Togo to have more control over the size of their families, we should be more supportive of making birth control and condoms widely available to them.

If liberal women have sooo many abortions (it isn't just liberals, abortion is spread across demographics), just how exactly would that lead to the liberal population growing so much. Wouldn't abortions counter that already? Rather illogical thinking there. And liberalism isn't exactly hereditary. Careful, loving freedom and social justice for all may just be contagious. Good luck to you.

9:12AM PDT on Aug 30, 2012

Interesting to see what will come out of this.

12:03PM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

why not? :)

10:53AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

I hope it works.

8:09AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

NOTED : )

More server issues....................

If AMAZON.com had the same server issues as CARE2.com, they would be out of business in less than a month

7:05AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

Dont lose your nocks over a week..

Huber.

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