In 2003, when Leymah Gbowee was awarded, alongside two other African women the Nobel Peace Prize, her name became particularly well-known because she employed a rather unusual method to bring to an end a civil war that had been going on for 13 years in Liberia. She launched the famous "sex strike", putting men in a totally unexpected and surprising situation. Who would have ever imagined that women, usually neglected and "used" at their husbands' pleasure, could refuse to fulfill their "duties" as wives?
Leymah Gbowee has recently published her autobiography called Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. She has empowered women and set an example for the whole world. As a peace activist, she put an end to the war in a "peaceful" way.
I cannot but recall Lysistrata who, in the comedy written by Aristophanes, urges women to stay together and take action in a peaceful, non-aggressive way, although they are exhausted by the Peloponnesian War that has been going on for 20 years. But Lysistrata is even more determined, so not only she persuades the women to go on a sex strike, but even gathers them all on the Acropolis where she takes possession of the treasury used to finance wars.
Lysistrata was the first comedy to highlight women's isolation and men's privileges in deciding how and when to start wars without letting women take part in the political life. Women managed the household, so why not war politics? The supremacy of men was undisputed and in the comedy a man says: "May I die a thousand deaths ere I obey one who wears a veil!"
During the '60s the hippie movement was based upon ideals of peace and freedom and Human Be-In, the first hippie gathering, held in San Francisco in 1967, was summed up by the slogan "Make love, not war!" Sex would have kept men away from aggressiveness and make them peaceful. Those were the years of the Vietnam War!
Yet Leymah Gbowee carried out her initiative effectively and was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Hope never dies, and although "The end justifies the means" is an expression wrongly attributed to Machiavelli, as it was never pronounced nor written by him, in this case it has proved extremely successful!
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