The female wing of a civil rights group is urging women in Togo to stage a week-long sex strike to demand the resignation of the country's president. Women are being asked to withhold sex from their husbands or partners from Monday, said Isabelle Ameganvi, leader of the women's wing of Let's Save Togo. She said the strike will put pressure on Togo's men to take action against President Faure Gnassingbe.
Ameganvi, a lawyer, said her group is following the example of Liberia's women, who used a sex strike in 2003 to campaign for peace. "We have many means to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo," she said.
The strike was announced on Saturday at a rally of several thousand people in the capital city, Lome. The demonstration was organised by a coalition that is protesting against recent electoral reforms which, they say, will make it easier for Gnassingbe to win re-election in October.
Gnassingbe came to power in 2005, following the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the West African country for 38 years. The president has not commented on the proposed sex strike. Earlier this month, two anti-Gnassingbe protests were dispersed by police using tear gas and more than 100 people were arrested.
At Saturday's rally, which ended peacefully, Jean-Pierre Fabre, leader of the National Alliance for Change opposition party, called for Gnassingbe's resignation. Other opposition leaders called for civil disobedience.
But it is the sex strike that has people talking in this country of 7 million people.
"It's a good thing for us women to observe this sex strike as long as our children are in jail now," said Abla Tamekloe. "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."
When asked if her husband would agree, Tamekloe said: "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."
Another Togolese woman said she supports the strike, but she does not know if she can carry it out for a full week.
"I do agree that we women have to observe this sex strike but I know my husband will not let me complete it. He may agree at first, but as far as I know him, he will change overnight," Judith Agbetoglo said.
Although the proposed strike seemed to please many women, some men, including heads of opposition parties and human rights groups in the anti-Gnassingbe coalition, did not believe it would be a success.
"One week sex strike is too much," said Fabre of the National Alliance for Change, who suggested a shorter period, amid laughter from the crowd. "Let's go for only two days."
Others were skeptical of Isabelle Ameganvi's call.
"It is easy for her to say because she is not married herself. She does not live with a man at home," said Ekoue Blame, a Togolese journalist. "Does she think women who live with their husband will be able to observe that? By the way, who controls what couples do behind closed doors?"