Kenya is gearing up for what will no doubt be a contentious presidential election this August.
That means the major political parties and coalitions have begun their get-out-the-vote schemes. The ruling Jubilee Party had fireworks and confetti, and the newly minted opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance or NASA, decided to send supporters knocking on doors in search of millions of new voters.
Mishi Mboko, an opposition member of Parliament in the NASA coalition, has a less conventional idea to encourage new voters: Women in areas where the opposition holds sway should refuse to have sex with their spouses unless they register to vote.
“Sex [is] a powerful weapon to make reluctant men rush to register as voters,” the Standard newspaper reports Mboko said.
“Women, this is the strategy you should adopt,” the paper quotes her as saying. “It is the best. Deny them sex until they show you their voter’s card.” (Her own husband has already registered, Mboko told the paper).
Now, the tactic is not new. Back in 2009, women’s rights groups in Kenya called for a weeklong sex strike to try to get then-President Mwai Kibaki and then-Prime Minister Raila Odinga to make peace and save a fragile coalition government.
In Liberia, women went on a sex strike in the early 2000s as the country’s civil war came to an end. One of them was 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee.
Since then, the idea of using a sex strike for political leverage has been tried by women in Colombia in 2006, 2011 and 2013 and in the Philippines in 2011. That same year, a senator in Belgium called a sex strike to force a deadlocked parliament into forming a government.
So, does it work?
In her 2011 memoir, Gbowee wrote that the Liberian sex strike “had little or no practical effect.” But it certainly garnered the peace movement media attention and is still, she wrote, the thing everyone asks her about.
It’s hard to say what effect the other sex strikes may have had, but the violence in Colombia receded, a government formed months later in Belgium and Kenya’s coalition survived.
As for Kenya’s opposition voter registration drive, more publicity doesn’t sound half-bad.