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Unzipped! The African Women Breaking Taboos Of Sexuality

In countries and communities where sexuality is often kept under wraps, more and more women are taking up their microphones, pens and keyboards to talk about intimate issues without filters.

Unzipped! The African Women Breaking Taboos Of Sexuality

Sekyiamah co-founded the blog Adventures from the bedrooms of African women

Eva Sauphie

When the subject of African women's sexuality gets media coverage it's almost always a bad thing, says Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, a Ghanaian writer based in London: "through the spectrum of disease, HIV or repeated pregnancies."

While universal access to sexual and reproductive health services remains a central issue in West Africa, Sekyiamah wants to share other narratives. To do this, she co-founded the blog: Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.

Sex outside of marriage, interracial relationships, threesomes, asexuality or practical and anatomical questions: no sex topic escapes Sekyiamah, who grew up in a very religious country and studied at a Catholic school in Accra.

Polyamory and polygamy

Forget about relations only for procreation and make room for pleasure: "It is a space open to African women where we can talk about sex freely and honestly," says Sekyiamah. More than 10 years after the creation of her blog, she has dedicated her work to sharing a range of sexual experiences, most recently with the book Sex Lives of African Women (Little Brown Book Group, July 2021). The text is a sociological look into the love lives and intimacies of African households through the testimonies of women from 30 countries on the continent.

Not a single word referring to our sexual anatomy is used in a normal way

One of the people featured is Nura (the first name has been changed by the author), a 42-year-old Kenyan woman married to a Senegalese man. Nura tells of her difficulty integrating into a polygamous household, and explains that she feels her sex life is subject to a timetable and to her husband's variable endurance.

"’Oh my God, I'm tired!’ my husband exclaimed one day. ‘I thought we were only going to have sex once a month.’ (...) He probably thought that at 40, my libido would decline," Nura explains.

Herself polyamorous and bisexual, Sekyiamah explores a wide spectrum of living one’s sexuality in the 21st century, including heterosexual and queer relationships as well as monogamous, polygamous or polyamorous couples — sexual practices and preferences she embraces even as homosexual relationships are prohibited in Ghana.

The columnist's blog is a space open to African women where they "can talk about sex freely and honestly"

Adventures from the bedrooms of African women

Sexuality without judgment

Talking about sexuality without judgment and under the cover of anonymity is also the goal of the Sudanese and Jordanian hosts of the podcast Jasadi (“My Body”), launched in 2019 by the production company Kerning Cultures, based in the United Arab Emirates. Named the best podcast in the Middle East and North Africa by Apple, the show invites women to question taboos related to sexuality and the female body in Arab societies.

"Not a single word referring to our sexual anatomy is used in a normal way," laments one of the guests. Another said she regretted the systematic use of anglicisms to name female genitalia, or the schoolyard mockery of the term "mahbal" ("vagina" in Arabic), which is phonetically close to the word "ahbal" (stupid).

In the post #Metoo era, sexual harassment and abuse are no longer ignored

For these "sexperts," there is no question of evading and resorting to innuendos or childish vocabulary to define sexual anatomy. It is on the other hand urgent to free oneself from the dominant heteronormative discourse.

"P as in pansexual, Q as in queer, R as in rim job (anilingus).” This is the kind of sexual primer that can be found on the Instagram page of the successful podcast The Spread, created by 38-year-old Kenyan Kaz Karen Lucas. A lesbian who identifies as non-binary — she uses she/they pronouns —, the ex-rapper has become a leading voice in Kenya’s LGBTQA+ community in five seasons and nearly 90 episodes.

It’s an important role in a country where the film “Rafiki” (by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu) was temporarily censored by authorities for depicting a lesbian romance. Lucas intends to "decolonize sexuality" in earnest by inviting gynecologists, obstetricians and other sexologists to speak on her show.

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah has dedicated her work to sharing a range of sexual experiences, most recently with the book Sex Lives of African Women

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

Consent is sexy

Another podcast innovator is the British-Nigerian Dami Olonisakin, better known as Oloni. The 31-year-old started The Laid Bare podcast in 2018. She now has built a community of 500,000 followers across social media platforms. On her Instagram page, she uses filters while sporting sexy outfits. And on the mic, she talks about sex without a filter. From the orgasm gap between women and men to solo female pleasure, through the use of sex toys and BDSM practices, her freedom of tone connects sex with emancipation.

And in the post #Metoo era, sexual harassment and abuse are no longer ignored. Oloni, who proclaims in her bio that "consent is sexy," will star in an upcoming Netflix special called “Sex: Unzipped.”

But despite her growing fame, she still takes the time to go to schools and talk to students about sexuality, giving younger generations the resources and knowledge she and other sexperts had to find for themselves.

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The ‘Laws Of War’ Applied To Israel And Hamas

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has raised numerous issues under international law, including Israel's unlawful siege of Gaza and Hamas being a non-state actor.

Photograph of the rubble of buildings destroyed by  Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city​. People lean in to look at the destruction.

Oct. 14, 2023: People inspect buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city

Robert Goldman

The killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas and retaliatory airstrikes on the densely populated Gaza Strip by Israel raises numerous issues under international law.

Indeed, President Joe Biden made express reference to the “laws of war” in comments he made at the White house on Oct. 10, 2023, noting that while democracies like the U.S. and Israel uphold such standards, “terrorists” such as Hamas “purposefully target civilians.” Speaking the same day, the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell condemned Hamas’ attack but also suggested that Israel was not acting in accordance with international law by cutting water, electricity and food to civilians in Gaza.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

But international law and the very nature of the conflict itself – along with the status of the two sides involved – is a complex area.

The Conversation turned to Robert Goldman, an expert on the laws of war at American University Washington College of Law, for guidance on some of the issues.

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