NIGERIA: Of Politics and Sex Strikes

Friday, September 10, 2010
Nigerian Compass
Western Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Peace Processes

Are sex strikes slowly but surely becoming a new form of political strategy? This is the question which comes to mind on reading about the declaration of a group of Nigerian women based abroad.

According to the reports the women are said to be a branch of the Women for Change Initiative set up by Dame Patience Jonathan. And if they have their way August 20 – 27, 2010 may not exactly have been tranquil on their home fronts. Alas the women said they were going to starve their husbands of sex if President Jonathan did not declare his interest to contest for the 2011 Presidential elections. Though this was not the first time women had brought the sacred goings-on of the bedroom into a nation's public domain this particular reason given for the strike does look somewhat curious way of persuading a person to run for office. It in a sense diminishes the importance of politics and governance. Indeed strikes are a commonly used strategy to force employers to the negotiating table and dialogue for higher pay packages. This is an age-old practice and works well in labour matters. But should a sex strike be waged in such circumstances?

It is a strategy that has been applied before. Fed up with the war, women in Liberia decided that if their male folk were going to continue to display intransigence over the dire state of affairs in the country, they as a way of securing peace would embark on a sex strike. This was a very serious matter. Liberia had been in the throes of war for several years and both human and natural resources were worse for wear. The nation was run over by drug filled child soldiers, killings, and maiming. The men would not sway in their seemingly determination to completely annihilate the nation and its peoples. And so the women could think of no other way to call the men to order and declared a sex strike. Today the women of Liberia are hailed as an example of courage and creativity in bringing about peace to their nation. In 2009, a similar line of action was applied in Kenya for political reasons. The Kenyan women came into the limelight in their goal to address the issues that forced them to take such a step in protest of government unrest. In a statement the Kenya's Women's Development Organization said: “The women of this country will not….. allow its political leadership to lead it back onto a slippery journey… to violence and absolute chaos”.

Women for Change is a noble initiative set up by Nigeria's First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan to empower women on the political front. It quite rightly had noticed that too few Nigerian women were active participants on the political scene. Plenty of lip service had been paid to getting Nigeria to meet the 30 per cent of the 1995 Beijing Declaration. Women were just not being given a fair chance. Many have suffered trying to be political gladiators. Mama ‘Thatcher' a woman leader in Ekiti State had acid thrown at her. No –one has been brought to book for this dastardly act and eventually she succumbed to her injuries. From incidents such as this it is clear that there is still very much a gender struggle and all kinds of methods are employed to discourage women from entering the political scene. The singing and dancing club is still very much the preferred club for the women when it comes to politics. When it comes to mobilising women are usually the easy targets to add colour to the political events. So Dame Jonathan's initiative is a welcome added voice to the clamour for proper recognition of the importance of women's role in nation building. We need to field more women candidates to seek election into decision- making positions.

Having noted that sex as a tool for change did work in Liberia and Kenya does not mean that it should be applied publicly at the drop of a hat. It certainly must not be applied to using it as a tool to persuade a man to run for public office. This particular group of women should have embarked on the strike – if this is their favoured choice of weapon - to make significant changes in the lives of women and not to persuade a man to run for office. On the contrary they may have called for the use of such a strategy for more meaningful political challenges such as the fielding of more women for elective posts; the opening of positions to women within the ranks of political parties. Top posts in the party structure are always the exclusive preserve of men. The group should therefore not trivialise a passionate advocacy for the political empowerment of women and reduce it to bedroom matters. They should not besmirch the fight to gain more political recognition of the role of women with such tactics. This is a clear invitation to ridicule by the men folk. It is also giving a green light to step outside the marital ring!

I truly think this group of women have mis-applied the opportunity to do something more meaningful for the nation. If they want to use sex strike as a political weapon there are a myriad of causes they could apply this to. If they insist on bringing about change using sex then there are plenty of causes to push. We have maternal and infant child mortality, girl-child education, child labourers, human trafficking, slave labour, mental health issues, children with learning difficulties, street children, child beggars etc. These are just a few of the social issues ravaging the country. They can raise any of these causes and begin to advocate and push for deep changes that will completely alter the lives of women.

In their mis-directed strategy, the women called on other well-meaning Nigerian women all over the world to join them in the “journey of sex starvation”. I have news for these ladies. It is not likely that in the light of the serious challenges facing the country that “other well-meaning Nigerian women” will embark on a sex boycott at the behest of a group of over-pampered women. On the contrary well-meaning Nigerian women will prefer to advocate over hard core socio-political causes that will promote deep changes and gender equity.