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Sex strike brings peace to Filipino village

By Karen Smith, CNN
  • A separatist rebellion has existed in the Mindanao island since the 1970s
  • UNHCR says women created a sex strike to get men to stop fighting
  • The strike helped end clashes in July between villages on Mindanao island

(CNN) -- A group of women in a violence-plagued area of the Philippines came up with their own weapon to end the fighting -- a sex strike.

The women withheld sex from their husbands until they promised to quit fighting. Their stand helped end clashes in July between villages in rural Mindanao Island, a recently released U.N. Refugee Agency report says.

U.N. Refugee Agency report

A separatist rebellion has been underway on the Filipino island of Mindanao since the 1970s. Families of Dado village had been displaced because of it since 2008 and are working to rebuild their community with the help of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other aid organizations.

Women of the village came up with the idea of a sex strike as a way to help rebuild their village and to bring peace during a UNHCR sponsored sewing cooperative. Many of the women were fed up with not being able to deliver their products due to the violence that closed down a main road between two villages.

UNHCR Spokesperson for Asia, Kitty McKinsey, said she witnessed the women quietly implement the solution to withhold sex from their husbands until the fighting stopped -- and it worked.

"I told them, if you don't agree with me, you will get no salary from me," says Aninon E. Kamanza of the Dado village sewing cooperative in a UNHCR video report.

Within weeks of the strike starting, the UNHCR reports that the main village road re-opened and the fighting stopped. The women of the sewing cooperative along with other villagers were able to deliver their goods and start to rebuild the economy.

"Women wanted their husbands to not fight anymore and by using their feminine wiles they were able to enforce their wish," said McKinsey.

The idea of withholding sex for a cause is not a new one -- the ancient Greek play Lysistrata tells the story of women who organized a sex strike to end a war between Athens and Sparta.

More recently, a strike was launched in 2006 in the Colombian city of Pereira, known for its drug trafficking and violent crimes. The strike was implemented by wives and girlfriends of gang members to get them to change their lifestyle and hand over their guns.

A similar campaign was carried out by women in Kenya in 2009 to protest the growing divide in Kenya's coalition government.

Sporadic fighting is still present in Mindanao near Dado village, but it is very localized, McKinsey said.

The sex strike is just one of the ways the people in Mindanao are using to implement change.

"I was really touched by how people didn't want handouts," she says, "They were all really happy and eager to help themselves."