Women in Togo have been urged to abstain from sex for one week in protest against the Togolese president, Faure Gnassingbe. Instigated by coalition group, Let’s Save Togo, the “sex strike” will last until this Sunday 2 September, with protesters pushing for President Gnassingbe (whose family has ruled Togo for more than four decades) to step aside from the top job so that new reforms may be ushered in.
Opponents argue that reforms made to electoral processes earlier this year will make it easier for Gnassingbe to win elections and stay in power. With the country set to go to the polls in October this year, people have recently taken to the streets in more traditional forms of protest. Those demonstrations were ultimately broken up by police with tear gas and multiple arrests.
Enter Let’s Save Togo and, more precisely, its leader Isabelle Ameganvi who took her lead from Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee. Gbowee encouraged women in her country to undertake a sex strike in 2003 in protest against then president, Charles Taylor. The purpose of using sex as a protest tool is to encourage otherwise apathetic men to get involved and help achieve the protester’s goals, essentially taking out their, uh, frustration on the system (for the record, Gbowee’s movement helped push Taylor out of power, ushering in a new era for Liberia with the election of its first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf).
The strike has drawn international attention to Togo and Ameganvi has encouraged supporters of Let’s Save Togo to wear red pants during the week, fast and take part in other acts of civil disobedience.