Sex strike in Togo in Presidential protest
Women in Togo have been urged to stage a week long sex strike to persuade their husbands and partners to support their fight for political reform.
Women from the ‘Let’s Save Togo’ coalition group have called upon all females in the country to join the strike to raise awareness of their political agenda.
Central to their campaign is their call for Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, whose family has been in power for decades, to stand down.
The opposition coalition, ‘Let’s Save Togo’ is made up of sixteen separate civil rights and political groups and movements. They support the sex strike, which was proposed by Isabelle Ameganvi, leader of the women’s division of the coalition.
She said that the sex strike could be a ‘weapon of the battle’ to achieve political change, and that its purpose was ‘…… to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo.’
But she also warned ‘If men refuse to hear our cries we will hold another demonstration that will be more powerful than a sex strike’.
Women who participate in the strike hope to motivate men who are not politically active to take up their cause, and to draw attention to their protest against electoral reforms. They also want to see an end to unlimited presidential terms.
A statement on the Let’s Save Togo website said ‘The Togolese people have finally decided to smash the vicious circle of contested elections, repressions and negotiations.’
The strike was announced at a political rally in Togo’s capital, Lome, on Saturday, and was attended by thousands.
The rally was relatively peaceful compared to others in recent weeks, where hundreds of anti-Gnassingbe protesters were injured, subjected to tear gas and arrested in clashes with security forces.
One of the women participating in the strike, Abla Tamekloe, believes that the sex stoppage will also raise awareness of those who have been imprisoned in Togo.
She said ‘It’s a good thing for us women to observe this sex strike as long as our children are in jail now. I believe that by observing this, we will get them released.
‘For me, it’s like fasting, and unless you fast, you will not get what you want from God.’
When asked if her husband would agree, Tamekloe said: ‘It is easy for me to observe it. I am used to it, but I am not sure my husband will accept, but I have to explain to him.’
Others are more sceptical. Referring to her husband, Judith Agbetoglo said she doubted that he would agree to a sex ban for seven days.
‘He may agree at first, but as far as I know him, he will change overnight. So I don’t believe I can do the one-week sex strike. Otherwise, I will have serious issues with him. He likes that too much.’
Jean-Pierre Fabre, leader of the National Alliance for Change was also sceptical. Provoking laughter from the protesters, he called for a shorter strike, saying ‘One week sex strike is too much. Let’s go for only two days.’
However, despite the scepticism, this is not the first time a sex strike has been used as a political tool.
In 2009, Kenyan women called for the wives of political figures to impose a sex ban to stop political infighting.
In 2003, Liberian women used a sex ban in their peace campaign to bring an end to the 14 year civil war.
Referring to this, Ms Ameganvi said ‘We want to fight as women of Liberia because when they started to do the sex strike, the men obliged to end the war and peace came back again in Liberia. That’s why we want to do the same thing in Togo to oblige the Togolese opposition to fight and end the system of oppression which has directed Togo for 16 years.
‘When the first strike was started yesterday, the men of “Let’s Save Togo” came and they begged the women to lessen this idea because the idea was very difficult for them. But all the women who were at the manifestation said no.’
She added that the women of Togo were prepared to go much further in their political protests, as Togolese women had had enough of carrying the burden of Togo’s economic and political problems.
‘The opposition wants the government, which has ruled Togo for 15 years, must go and democracy must come in Togo because we are in a system of dictatorship, and human rights are not respected, economic problems are so many, and the women are the victims of all these problems. And we say enough is enough,’ Ameganvi said.
Neither President Gnassingbe nor his wife have commented on the sex strike.