Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga won’t get laid this week. Or at least not at home — his wife Ida is leading a national sex boycott. And he may not have better luck outside the home; activists have done a deal with sex workers, paying them not to give their men relief in the boycott period.
The idea is to force the country’s squabbling politicians, and most particularly the squabblers-in-chief President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to behave more sensibly. (Lucy Kibaki hasn’t yet said whether she’ll join in.)
A whole week without sex: imagine! The idea that this would be enough to get Kenya’s politicians to give up a lifetime’s habit of self-interested tribal and party politicking says quite a bit, doesn’t it? When epidemiologists suggest that one reason HIV spreads more rapidly in East and Southern Africa than elsewhere is because the timing, frequency and volume of sexual partnerships support that spread, we’re told we’re racist (as though somehow having lots of sex is a bad thing….). Now we have the women of Kenya planning to change the world by depriving men of sex for a single week. I can’t see the prospect of that bringing many British MPs to their knees.
Actually, I don’t think for a moment that the good womenfolk of Kenya think that their men can’t make it through the week without sex. New research published today (in the wonderful, open-access Public Library of Science) that included 1,161 Kenyan couples found that they had sex four times a month on average. Giving up one of those four times hardly seems like a big sacrifice. I’m interested, though, in how they are going to pay top-up fees to all the striking sex workers — over 7,000 girls would normally be bringing in the cash each night in Nairobi’s central business district alone.
I’m also mildly amused by the “men are pigs, women are saints” ethos that underlies the sex boycott. The annoucement of the boycott itself has drawn fighting words from the leaders of some women’s organisations. In a country where one in 13 adults are infected with sexually transmitted HIV, 60% of them women, some women’s leaders still think it is wicked to talk about sex. This from The Nation:
Maendeleo ya Wanawake [Women’s Development Organisation] vice-chair Rahab Muiu criticised the presence of the organisation’s chairperson at a press conference where the strike was announced. “As the largest women’s organisation in the country, we strongly believe in family values and cannot be associated with such foul utterances which can only break families,” Mrs Muiu said.
She said chairperson Rukia Subow supported the sex boycott in her personal capacity. However, Mrs Subow has come out fighting, retorting: “I set the agenda for women in this country.”
The organisation’s assistant national secretary, Mrs Elizabeth Mayieka, said women in Nyanza were beaten by their husbands over the proposed boycott. She condemned the boycott, saying it is taboo to talk about bedroom matters in public and in the presence of children.
Thanks to Lisa McCandless