Kenyan Women Fight Corruption With Sex

Kenya is a country bitterly divided along political and ethnic lines, and a year after election protests turned into widespread tribal violence, bitter political rivalry threatens the country's security again.

But this time a group of women activists say they are ready to fight not with machetes or guns but with sex.

Talk to members of any tribe within Kenya, and most are willing to recite negative stereotypes about one another. Last year that tribal tension took a violent turn during post-presidential election violence that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced nearly half a million.

And despite signing a power-sharing agreement last year, the political parties of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have continued to wrangle over power.

Now the Women's Development Organization of Kenya, made up of 11 different women's rights groups, has called for women across the country to impose a sex ban on their partners for one week to protest the political infighting in Kenya's government. Sex, says the women's group, is the one thing that cuts beyond tribal, political and class lines. The group even plans to compensate Kenya's many prostitutes for abstaining.

"Sex costs nothing, and it excites the public imagination," said Patricia Nyaundi, the executive director of the Federation of Women Lawyers, also known as FIDA.

And the ban has definitely excited Kenyans. It's the talk on all the radio stations as well as the top story for the local newspapers. Men and women have weighed in to support or oppose the ban. Some call it courageous and just what the country needs, while others say it is against the tradition of African marriages, and that the ban is fundamentally unfair.

"Sex is between a husband and his wife in the home, it is not for politics," says Harrison Wabugu, a businessman from Nyeri, Kenya. "Why should I suffer because of the foolishness of the politicians? You think I don't want Raila and Kibaki to shake hands?"

But the discussions are exactly what the group had in mind when calling for the boycott, Nyaundi told ABC News.

"We usually distance what is happening in the political arena and how that is affecting us in our day-to-day lives," she said. "The fundamental issue really is that we wanted Kenyans to discuss the state of the nation at the family level. So far, very good."

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Although Nyaundi admits that the initial chatter has been more about the ban and less about the politics behind it, she hopes that as tensions continue to rise politicians and Kenyans will be forced to confront the very serious issues behind the ban.

Since the national peace accord was put in place a year ago, Kenya's coalition government has largely been seen as a failure.

Corruption scandals involving maize and oil together with a drought have left one-third of the country on the verge of starvation. A U.N. special envoy has issued a report condemning police extra-judicial killings and the Kenyan justice system. The criminal Mungiki sect has resumed much of its activity, and Kenyan politicians remain some of the highest paid in the world, bringing home a largely untaxed salary of $8,000 to $10,000 per month.

Despite the poverty and insecurity facing the Kenyan citizens, the politicians remain deadlocked over power. Many human rights groups fear the country is headed back to the chaos that nearly destroyed it a year ago.

Last year, women and children bore the brunt of the post-election violence. At least 3,000 women reported they were raped, and many more lost their homes and their livelihoods. Some lost their lives.

"During post-election violence women paid the highest price. We were sexually assaulted, we were the highest casualties," said Nyaundi, "That's why we are telling women today that if we allow the situation to deteriorate any further we will be the ones to pay."