Time for women to hit below the belt, again

This Wednesday, International Woman’s Day, women everywhere are going on strike, writes Suzanne Harrington

Time for women to hit below the belt, again

Well, that’s the plan anyway. Hopefully it will materialise — against inequality, violence, misogyny, hate crime. And in Ireland, for the repeal of the 8th Amendment. But going on strike for one day – even if every woman in the world downs tools, walks out, leaves the building — lasts only for one day. What can we do that is sustainable, costs nothing, and has a proven track record?

Let us look to ancient Greece. 2,500 years ago, Lysistrata persuaded the men of Athens and Sparta to stop warring, by persuading the women of Athens and Sparta to stop having sex with them.

It worked. Okay, so Lysistrata was a fictional character, but the sex strike idea has carried on through the ages, all the way to Spike Lee’s recent movie Chi-Raq.

Real life examples abound. In 2001 in a village in south east Turkey, the women, fed up of a wonky water supply, stopped having sex with the men. To walk through the bedroom door, they said, water needed to flow through the kitchen taps. Lo and behold, within a month the men had petitioned local government and five miles of water piping made its way to the village. Shazam!

Going on sex strike worked in Liberia in 2002 to end a 14-year civil war and get a female president elected. It worked in Colombia in 2006 and 2011 against gang warfare and bad roads, and in Kenya in 2009 it ended post-election violence. In 2011, it countered fighting in the Philippines and in 2012, political corruption in Togo. Nor does the mass withholding of sex just happen in the developing world; in Canada in 2012, it was used to protest gun violence, and in 2014, Japanese women went on bedroom strike against the election of a misogynist politician.

In relation to the 8th Amendment, which gives the state ownership of women’s bodies, perhaps Irish women wishing to change this could do so by blocking access to these bodies. By refusing permission for their bodies to be accessed for sex, might this encourage people who are not women but like having sex with women to see with sharper vision the necessity of allowing women legal autonomy over their bodies?

There are lots of non-female people who support repealing the 8th Amendment, but equally, there are plenty who do not. Would a blanket ban on heterosexual sex change this? It might seem a bit primitive, but one imagines significantly more effective than banners and placards; there are few things more motivational than hunger – physical and sexual – to get things done. If humankind remains three square meals from anarchy, how about this strategy being relocated from the stomach to slightly further south?

This is not to insult individual men. But when Amnesty International is calling Ireland out on our legislation around human reproductive rights, drastic action is needed. The personal has never been more political - so strike where the iron is hot.

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