Saturday, June 13, 2009

Being Chaste for Change: Challenging the "Right" of "Conjugal Rights"

Two articles have recently caught my attention concerning the idea of “conjugal rights.”

The first is an older article but since reading it I have not been able to get it out of my head. In the beginning of May, the Center for Rights Education and Awareness in Kenya urged women to abstain from sex for one week to protest political unrest due to poor relations between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Two things happened; first and foremost, the strike worked. Change was initiated. No violence, no assembling of the masses; just a bunch of women abstaining for seven full days. These women are GENIUS…it makes me wonder if they inadvertently discovered the solution for World Peace.

The second repercussion was the subject of this article. A Kenyan man was so distraught by the lack of his “conjugal rights” he sued the organizers claiming he suffered from stress, mental anguish, backaches and lack of sleep as a result of the strike.

Where, I ask, is his sense of nationalism?

I think he left it at home, along with his dignity and self-respect.

The second article is cause for extreme concern. For those who are not aware, back in April Afghanistan passed an extremely controversial law that prevents women from declining a husband’s request for sex. It is a law that legalizes rape. Apparently President Hamid Karzai “missed” that particular provision. The law had so many articles he got tired of reading them all. Being a politician is really hard.

Afghani women refused to stand for this type of tyrannical legislation. They marched for their right to say no and suffered physical injuries as a result. Police in Afghanistan are not very attentive when it comes to protecting women protesters.

I hope these articles make you as sick as they made me. Both are suggesting the same thing; that sex is a RIGHT. We know this is blatantly untrue but some people don’t have this luxury. Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a country where this was not a given fact? Where you were told as a woman that you were required to have sex with your husband X times a week as part of your responsibilities as a dutiful wife?

I would like to think this attitude is not prevalent in our country but more and more I am seeing examples of this behavior to a much lesser degree. I would never dare to compare our situation to those of brave Kenyan and Afghani women but I do believe we experience this “sex is a right” concept a lot. Women are made to feel guilty if we withhold physically from someone we are dating because “they have needs.”

Newsflash; women have needs too. We, however, are capable of something called self-control. Take notes gentlemen…you are not entitled to anything physically. Ever. Drop the guilt-trip routine because any woman with half a brain won’t buy it, and we are sick and tired of shutting you down.

These stories made me realize how far women’s rights activists still have to go. I have recently complained to some of my friends how I am tired of being labeled “the feminist.” How I am defined by this when a friend makes a joke about getting something for me to eat and how it better be “feminist and vegetarian friendly or else.” It’s easy to get tired of the jokes and snide remarks.

All I need to revamp my faith in the cause is stories like these. Stories of women who are willing to use whatever power they have, even if it is simply their power to say no, to fight for change.

I thank God every day that I live in a country where no really does mean NO.


  1. Peg (4 Mercy) you need to submit this to Huffington Post or somewhere else so that it can be published. For reals.

  2. Powerful. Those poor women in Afghanistan...

  3. Yes, my prayers are with them. I can not even fathom what it would be like to be an activist for women's rights in a place like that. These women are my heroes.