Sex ban suggested for Belgian coalition negotiators

Image caption,
It is hoped that a sex ban will give some urgency to coalition talks

The partners of Belgian politicians are being urged to go on a sex strike until a government is formed.

The country had general elections last June but parties have so far been unable to form a governing coalition.

Socialist senator Marleen Temmerman said after a week of a similar sex ban in Kenya in 2009, a government was formed.

Previous attempts to pressure Belgian negotiators into agreement have included a "grow a beard" campaign.

It is now 241 days since the elections, and Belgium is fast approaching an unofficial world record.

Apart from Somalia, it is reported that only Iraq has taken longer (249 days) to form a government.

"I call on the spouses of all negotiators to withold sex until a deal is reached," said Ms Temmerman in an article for a Belgian newspaper. "Have no more sex until the new administration is posing on the steps of the Palace."

She said if politicians' partners followed her suggestion, the "palaver" of coalition-forming would be resolved quite quickly.

Sexual leverage

Senator Temmerman, who is also a gynaecologist, told the BBC she was in Kenya last month when she heard about actor Benoit Poelvoorde's "grow a beard" campaign to pressure the Belgian politicians.

A female Kenyan colleague had suggested there was something women could do, citing the sex ban campaign during Kenya's political crisis.

Image caption,
Ms Temmerman was inspired by a suggestion from a Kenyan colleague

Ms Temmerman said she has not had a direct response to her suggestion from other politicians or their partners, but about 80% of members of the public who had contacted her office have been very positive.

"Ten to 20% who don't have a sense of humour were upset, saying 'This is really a disgrace, how can someone who is such a serious lady launch such a stupid idea?' It's hilarious that people take it so seriously," said Ms Temmerman.

The idea of '"sex strikes" goes back a long way. In the Greek playwright Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata, the female characters withhold sex from their husbands to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War.

In 2006, women in Pereira, Colombia, organised a "strike of crossed legs", to pressure the city's gangsters to give up their guns.

Bitter divisions

Belgium's political crisis centres around divisions between the Flemish, Dutch-speaking population and French-speaking Walloons.

In the June elections the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) emerged as the largest force in parliament but, with only 27 of 150 seats, it needed to form a coalition with a number of other parties to govern.

The NVA has said in the past that its ultimate aim is independence for the Dutch-speaking, richer, northern half of Belgium, Flanders.

Resentment has grown in Flanders over the years about the amount of government aid given to the poorer southern half, Wallonia, populated mainly by French speakers.

But the francophone Socialist party got the second highest number of seats in the June vote.

It is not clear whether response to the call for a sex strike will also fall along regional and linguistic lines.

But Catherine Fonck, a francophone Christian Democrat senator, was quoted in Britain's Daily Telegraph as saying: "I do not want to take part in a sex strike. Politicians are not there to strike. On the contrary, politicians are there to arouse the country."

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