Can Sex Strikes Push A Political Revolution in Kenya?

Amie Newman

Kenyan women boycott sex in order to force male political leaders towards a truce.

I’m not going to fall into the old trap of stereotyping men as sex-crazed fiends led first and foremost by their penises. And I refuse to pretend that women are sexless creatures who just like to cuddle. But this story straight from Kenya is one that I’m having a hard time dissecting.

Last week, In order to prod the male political leaders of Kenya towards a truce, female activists in that country mounted a campaign in which they encouraged the wives of said political leaders to withhold sex in order to boycott the punitive behavior and to call attention to the diminishing credibility of Kenya’s governmental institutions and the insecurity Kenyans are experiencing as a result of ongoing violence. Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s wife, Ida, joined the "sex boycott." 

The boycott ends tomorrow (Wednesday, May 6th) but women’s groups are piggybacking on the "success" (the President and the Prime Minister have agreed to meet) through the creation of a 90-day plan that would ensure more monitoring of their country’s politlcal leaders. 

Speaking on behalf of the women organisations involved, Centre for Rights Education and Awareness director Ann Njogu said the two leaders’ meeting was one of the things they were pushing for.

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“We are happy because they are setting the way forward,” she said. “ We are now looking forward to them calling for a Cabinet meeting,” she said.

Last year, extreme violence followed elections that created a coalition government bringing Prime Minister Odinga and President Kibaki together. Scandal and corruption have plagued Kenya and citizens of the country have been banking on Odinga and Kibaki cleaning it up.

According to Foreign Policy Magazine, it was Kenya’s Federation of Women Lawyers that called for the sex boycott originally. The group even agreed to pay for prostitutes "in order to make the ban more effective."

The logic here escapes me. Paying for prostitutes so the men in power, whose wives are withholding sex from them for political purposes, will make the boycott more effective? For some folks, sex outside of marriage is desirable. For others, it would be a travesty.

I concede that I’m having a hard time with women being encouraged to ‘use’ sex as a power tool (no pun intended) in their relationship. Isn’t sex supposed to be fun, intimate, playful, relationship building? The fact that women are being pushed to martyr their own sexuality and sexual desires for the potential benefit of their country is not only harmful to the individual women and couples engaged in the boycott but presents a horribly dysfunctional model for sexuality to young people in that country. 

On the other hand, Jimi Izrael, a writer at The Root, questions the reasoning behind this "booty strike" (as he calls it) with equally absurd reasoning. He asks:

Who is the nitwit who thought sex deprivation would motivate men into political discourse?

But then goes on to write that, in fact, this situation will only result in "…a lot of brothers in the clinic, burning like Heat Miser with diseases they contracted while tricking-off with prostitutes. Or other kinds of infidelity will run rampant." Because men are animals with no self-control? Lack of sex, temporarily, will simply force men into adulterous situations? 

Opinions not withstanding, I am not a woman of Kenya. I offer my respect to the women who have stepped up to make change; to force action; and to stand up on behalf of their fellow citizens as they proclaim that there must be an end to the corruption and the violence (in March of this year 28 people were killed by members of the outlawed Mungiki sect). Finally,  I offer my support for the "Gender 10" – the women who are pushing for an end to the political in-fighting in their country – through new political change measures, choosing to end the sex strike for now. I may not agree with the means of change but I am not living in Kenya with its poltical and social growing pains and rampant violence. Maybe, to the mothers of Kenya, withholding sex for the greater good of the children of Kenya makes the most sense. 

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