More than 2,500 years ago, the Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote a play called ‘Lysistrata’ in which the women of Athens vowed to withhold sexual relations from their husbands and lovers as a form of protest against The Peloponnesian War.
Something similar is now happening in a country thousands of miles away from Greece -- the women of Togo, a small country in West Africa, have called for a week-long ‘sex strike’ as a protest against President Faure Gnassingbe.
Opposition leader Isabelle Ameganvi, an attorney who supports the imposition of sexual abstinence, is demanding that the President immediately resign.
Ameganvi’s movement reportedly has the support of a multitude of Togo’s opposition parties and civil society organizations under a banner called “Let’s Save Togo.”
"We have many means to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo," Ameganvi told a demonstration in the capital city of Lome, according to BBC.
She noted that women in Liberia staged a similar ‘sex strike’ in 2003 in a bid to establish peace to end that nation’s deadly civil war which killed up to 300,000 people. (That war ended that year).
"If men refuse to hear our cries we will hold another demonstration that will be more powerful than a sex strike," Ameganvi added.
Gnassingbe’s family has ruled Togo for decades – he was quickly installed as president by the military in early 2005 following the death of his father, Eyadema, who had ruled the nation since 1967. Gnassingbe was re-elected in 2010.
Opponents are outraged that the government has enacted certain electoral reforms what will likely guaranteed a victory by Gnassingbe's party in upcoming parliamentary elections this autumn. In addition, they seek to end the practice of granting the president virtually unlimited terms.
Togo is a poverty-stricken country of less than 7 million people. It depends heavily on agriculture and suffers from anemic economic growth.
While the ’sex’ protest over the weekend was peaceful, earlier this month an anti-government demonstration resulted in 100 arrests.
According to the Daily Telegraph of Britain, a Togolese woman named Abla Tamekloe said she supported the strike.
"It's a good thing for us women to observe this sex-strike as long as our children are in jail now,” she said, referring to those arrested in the protests.
“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."
Regarding the possible suspension of sexual relations with her husband, she said: "I have no choice and he has no choice either. 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"
“Sex strikes” are actually nothing new to women in various parts of the world as a tool for making political statements and issuing demands.
For example, in the summer of 2011, women in Mindanao in the Philippines called ‘sex strike’ to force the men in two villages to end their fighting.
In February 2011, a female senator in Belgium called on the wives of politicians to withhold sex from their husbands in order to solve a political deadlock that left the country without a government for more than six months,
In April 2008, women in Kenya called for a week-longs sex strike to force the country’s male politicians to break another political deadlock. (Prostitutes were also compelled not to work in the meantime).
Lysistrata was a satiric comedy with a happy ending – Togo has serious problems that likely cannot be solved by two weeks of sexual abstinence.