Sex Strike in Togo: Lysistrata in West Africa

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.

Three members of Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot are serving two-year prison terms for a “punk prayer” performed on the altar of Moscow’s Christ Our Savior Cathedral in February. Pussy Riot’s colorful balaclavas and dresses make their wearers look like grotesque dolls and are simply distinctive.

Even amid crowded visual world of the Internet, many who see a woman (or anyone) in a balaclava will now think of Pussy Riot and what the group stands for, its calls to fight against the oppression, authoritarianism and orthodoxy and to end the suppression of free speech and freedom of expression.

More Demonstrations Planned in Togo

Ameganvi is calling on women to wear red pants for a Thursday demonstration “to show your anger.” Over the warnings of security minister Damehane Yark, she is also urging women “to rush to the prison naked to get [the detainees] released, only in red pants and nothing else.”

Yark has said that “in a state of rule of law like ours, we will get them arrested for offending moral values” — a revealing statement of what, of who, the Togolese authorities really fear.

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Photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen


Jacqueline Lavanchy

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 !

Anna M.
Anna M5 years ago

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

Carolanne Powell
C Powell5 years ago

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

Aleisha W.
Aleisha Williams5 years ago

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

Rene H.
Irene H5 years ago

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.

Ori M.
oriana M5 years ago

Interesting to see what will come out of this.

Brigitte S.
Brigitte S.5 years ago

why not? :)

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

I hope it works.

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


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

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

Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

Dont lose your nocks over a week..