Kenyan Lysistrata

Just say no

Just say no

Today, the BBC reports on a Lysistrata-like plan – a seven day sex ban – on the part of some Kenyan women to protest the government infighting that, they fear, will result in widespread violence like that following the 2007 elections if not curtailed.

“The campaign is being backed by several other lobby groups, including the Caucus for Women’s Leadership and Maendeleo ya Wanawake – a nationwide network of women’s groups in rural Kenya.

Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga agreed to share power last year to end post-election violence, which had left some 1,500 people dead and forced 300,000 from their homes.”

While I always enjoy seeing women take part in politics, and am impressed by the suggestion that prostitutes might be paid to participate in the plan, I wonder at the possible efficacy of such action.

In Lysistrata (a comedy by Aristophanes), the motivation for the sex embargo is the Peloponnesian War, caused and maintained by the Greek menfolk. It should be pointed out that the success of Lysistrata’s plan also involves taking over the treasury, and refusing sex until peace is officially made. In this case the action is meant to encourage the continuation of peaceful power-sharing, without allowing rising political tensions to devolve into civil unrest.

If anything, the ban is simply a way of drawing attention to a cause, enforced celibacy makes for a sexy headline, and if it doesn’t actually affect various political tensions, it may at least serve as a reminder of the costs of civil violence. I doubt it will “force the squabbling rivals to make up.”

I’d rather see women in governing bodies making decisions and policies based on the concern for peace that’s behind the ban. Women in Kenya were heavily involved in resolving post-election conflict last year. If there were more of such women in political positions, the peace they helped create might prove more lasting and durable.

As in Lysistrata – perhaps war should be women’s business from now on.

image from the guardian

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