Would you withhold sex to make a point?
By Jan Ajwang
A group of Kenyan women activists last week announced that they were taking a week to withhold sex from their men as a form of protest against the rift in the coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The coalition was formed in the wake of the December 2007 election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Kenyan women are arguing that women bear the brunt of wars started by men and this sex strike is meant to highlight their need for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
The women`s coalition also asked the president and the prime ministers wives to join in their cause and Mrs Ida Odinga told CNN that she supported the women`s cause ``100 percent.`` The sex strike ends this week. Jan Ajwang interviewed some prominent personalities on what they felt about the move: -
Nakaya Sumari, Musician
We come from a cultural perspective where sex is a big issue especially for men and withholding it means a lot. In this case the boycotting of sex is not necessarily about just denying the men their pleasure but about driving a point home and I think that it has worked.
I think the women in Kenya have done a great job in getting their voices heard and I think in times of national crises, women in Africa should emulate what their counterparts in Kenya have done.
It shows how clear they are about their needs: we either have this or you don`t get that. I think it is beautiful and an act of bravery.
Tanzanian women should learn from this defiance. We could make the same statement to bring more attention to the problems that women are facing. I think it is a good thing
Ezekiel Masanja, Legal and Human Rights Centre
I think they simply want the men to pay more attention to this pressing issue. They feel that the men in the country have been pre-occupied with other issues than reforms.
This was an effort on their part to attract the attention of the decision-makers most of whom are men. By doing what they have done, the message could reach home.
I think it is mainly aimed to get attention because I am not sure all the women agree to it and are actually following the ban. If the women boycotting are close to the decision-makers then there could be more impact on the boycott.
However this could be the beginning of a new way of uniting women over a common cause. I, however, donít think it will directly make a difference or influence decisions.
MP Kigoma North (Chadema)
I have been following the event in Kenya closely and I think that what the Kenyan women are doing is very un-African. I was shocked and I have never experienced such a demonstration. In Africa you donít just go talking publicly about sex.
I am not a conservative, but I believe that there are other forums and options to make complaints; I just don`t think the option to withhold sex is fits well. I wouldnít advise any Tanzanian women to use that option.
The problems in Kenya cannot entirely be blamed on men especially since the grand coalition government also has women in leadership.
The reforms are not about gender and everyone should be involved and so demands for reform cannot be based on withholding sex.
Presenter East Africa Radio (The Morning Show)
I am totally against it and I donít think you can get a united front that way because I don`t think that all women are going to boycott sex anyway.
I don`t know if they actually got the support from all women including the prostitutes whom they promised to pay.
Often there are more women than men and the women who don`t agree to such a ban could be available for the men. While one could be continuing with the boycott, their husbands could cheat on them with another woman who wouldn`t be bothered by the ban.
I think the ban is going against nature and could push the men into considering other sex options Ė I donít know whether they have paid homosexuals too.
Yeah everybody is for peace and we in East Africa can admit that yes there is a problem in Kenya that needs to be fixed. That however, doesn`t mean that we are going to support a sex boycott. It`s been days now and we are yet to feel the impact of the ban. I think it was a wrong strategy.
Executive director, Soma Book Cafť
All I can say is that desperate situations call for desperate measures and what the women in Kenya are doing is just one of the desperate ways they have had to respond to what is going on.
If all other ways have failed they are resorting to the most traditional way of doing it as a call to good governance and all their other concerns to be heard.
When you see women doing that you know that they are faced with extreme levels of repression and that they need to be heard!
Jane Kokwijuka, Housewife
I heard about it and at first I thought it was a joke. I wouldnít be part of it. They may speak publicly about it but how are we going to prove that they are actually boycotting sex. And how about the men and women who are not married where do they fall?
For the married men there are also many options, many women whom they can go out and cheat with. So I donít think it will bring any results but it will just make people laugh at them.