'Dethroned' Men Stage Sex Strike In Staunch Patriarchy Of Kenya
Polygamy is rampant, women are woefully underrepresented in politics and without the same land rights of men. But some Kenyan males have launched a surprising protest to any threats to their privileges.
No, it's not a joke: Men in Kenya are staging a sex strike. A nationally known men's rights activist has called for men to withhold any form of tenderness from their partners this week in a move protesting the alleged discrimination men face from women and the government.
This is not Kenya's first sex boycott. A women's organization staged a sex strike in 2009 as a way to get the attention of the male political elite. Men's rights activist Nderitu Njoka took note of the trick, and is applying it to protest the position of men in Kenyan society.
According to Njoka, chairman of an organization called the Global Men Empowerment Network (GMEN), men in this east African country are increasingly being "dethroned." In addition to ending alleged discrimination of men, the strikers hope to raise awareness about the growing number of abused men. Njoka cites figures: In 2011, a poll conducted in two Kenyan provinces found that 460,000 men reported being the target of domestic violence. So far in 2014, 300 men have been attacked by women, he says, and 100 of them had their genitals cut off.
But Njoka's figures can't be verified. The Gender Violence Recovery Center (GVRC) in Nairobi, which is devoted to helping victims of sexual and domestic violence, has only registered a few cases of violence against men. Between 2001 and 2012, 3% of the victims they helped were men, and 90% of violent acts were committed by men.
Violence is part of daily life for Kenyan women. Studies have also shown that in most areas of society women are strongly disadvantaged. Poverty hits women harder than it does men. Fewer women can read and write, and only a fourth of the female population attended higher education, as opposed to a third of men. Women do most of the farm work, but only 1% of farmland belongs to women.
In politics, women are also underrepresented. Only 22% of parliament members are women, so it's easy for their male colleagues to pass legislation hostile to them. One such law on joint ownership by married couples, passed last year, decrees that divorced and widowed women lose access to the family's farmland.
Polygamy is legal and widespread in Kenya. Earlier this year, male parliament members removed from draft legislation the veto right that first wives were supposed to get if their husband wanted to take a second wife.
The real issue behind the call for a sex strike emerges clearly in interviews. The men's rights activists fear that the position of men in Kenyan patriarchal society is eroding.
"Women suddenly think they can be head of the family," Njoka said in a TV interview. "And that's completely wrong."