Fri, Feb 11, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Can a boycott on sex save Belgium?

AFP, GHENT, BELGIUM

No sex here please! As Belgium hits eight months without a government this week, a boycott on sex is being suggested as a way out of the nation’s longest political impasse.

“When a situation’s dire and nothing’s moving, either you become a cynic or you react with humour,” said Marleen Temmerman, the Belgian senator and gynecologist who threw up the notion.

Speaking in her Ghent office, Temmerman said her call for “no more sex until a new administration” dates back to a trip to Kenya last month where she got wind of another novel bid to break the deadlock — a boycott on shaving.

That was from actor Benoit Poelvoorde, star of early 1990s mockumentary Man Bites Dog and recent movie Coco After Chanel.

“Let’s keep our beards until Belgium rises again,” he urged on Belgian TV.

“The men loved it and that was when Kenyan women reminded us about their sex strike” in 2009 to demand a political solution, Temmerman said. “Within a month a deal was done there.”

Colombian women likewise in 2006 staged a strike “of crossed legs” to press gangsters to give up their guns. And in ancient Greece, Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata sees women boycotting the marital bed to end the Peloponnesian war.

In Belgium, feuding politicians from the Dutch-speaking north and the francophone south have been squabbling to strike a coalition government deal ever since elections on June 13 last year failed to produce an outright majority.

As fears mount of a lasting divorce between the two language communities, the figurehead sovereign, King Albert II, has named a succession of special envoys to bridge the divide, but all efforts have floundered.

“People are growing increasingly angry,” Temmerman said. “We had to act.”

Current caretaker Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders is due to end a mediation mission next week amid public anger and fears for Belgium’s economic future if no solution is found.

Temmerman, also involved in health projects in Africa, said she had been flooded with positive calls and e-mails over the sex ban.

Asked for response in a busy Belgian shopping mall, Florence Willems said: “Why not? We may as well! We don’t know what else to do to get a government.”

With policy at a dead end and projects put on hold as a caretaker government deals with daily business, citizens have taken initiatives, but see no response.

“Despite all these often novel forms of pressure, a solution seems a long way off,” political scientist Pascal Delwit said in the daily Le Soir.

Asked whether the sex boycott could have an impact, Temmerman said: “I don’t think many women are going to practice abstinence, or that it’ll have an effect, but it’s better to laugh.”

As for herself?

“My husband’s in Kenya at the moment so it’s easy,” she said.

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