Kenyan women call for sex boycott over political deadlock

Kenyan women’s organisations have called for a nationwide sex boycott to force feuding male politicians in the coalition government to resolve their differences.

The women say they are prepared to pay prostitutes to withhold their services for a week to make the campaign more effective.

The boycott has been sparked by a feud between Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the prime minister, over who runs the government agenda in parliament.

The women have sent emissaries to the wives of both men to encourage them to join in the boycott which reflects growing public anger with the pace at which the coalition government is tackling the underlying causes of last year’s post- election crisis.

Kenya was gripped by violent ethnic protests that almost pitched the country into civil war and resulted in the deaths of some 1,500 people in the aftermath of disputed elections.

The coalition government formed to end the crisis has been beset by corruption scandals and internal feuding even as 10m Kenyans face starvation.

A recent survey showed that over two-thirds of Kenyans no longer have confidence in the government.

“This is a call to mass action to protest poor leadership,” said Ms Patricia Nyaundi, executive director of the women’s organisation, FIDA. “The other option was to take to the streets with placards, but we would have been clobbered by the police. So this is a political protest from the safety of our homes.”

The boycott recalls Greek playwright’s Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, about a sex boycott staged by Athenian women to end the Peloponnesian War.

“Our leaders are taking us in the wrong direction. Last year this feuding ended in violence. If this were to recur, it is the women and children who would bear the brunt,” Ms Nyaundi said

Some men interviewed for an opinion poll within hours of the launch on Wednesday last week said they would go elsewhere for sex if their partners got involved.

NGOs involved in the campaign plan to provide financial support to commercial sex workers, estimated at 7,000 in Nairobi’s central business district alone during the boycott.

Some critics object to the boycott strategy on principle. “As a feminist I’m not sure how I feel about being regarded as a mere provider of sex,” said Wangari Kinoti.

Sex in Kenya was a taboo subject until recently. However, official acknowledgement of the HIV/Aids crisis has changed that.


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