Wednesday, August 3, 2011

‘Crossed legs’ protest in Colombia an attempt to receive ‘basic rights’

Female residents of Barbacoas, an isolated town in central Colombia, are using sexuality as a tool to be heard in a province plagued by violence.

In what they're referring to as the "crossed legs movement," women are withholding sex — and, in turn, avoiding pregnancy — until the government provides safer access to other towns within the province.

And they've been doing it since late June.

In a 2011 twist to the Greek Lysistrata tale, in which women withheld sex from their partners to bring about an end the Peloponnesian War, the women of Barbacoas are banning it from the town to accomplish their own political objective: better, safer roads to more populous areas.

The roads leading to and from Barbacoas aren't paved, making already dangerous travels through violent, politically volatile areas even more treacherous. The condition of the roads impedes everyday access to medical care, food and other basic services, women leading the movement say.

"I personally had to see a 23-year-old pregnant woman die along with her unborn baby just because the ambulance got stuck on the road," spokeswoman Marybell Silva said. "That's when I knew we had to do something."

Taking coverage of last month's stateside SlutWalks into account, this brings back the question: Is a woman's body the best way to bring attention to human rights issues? Though the SlutWalks and crossed legs movements are very different campaigns — women engaged in the walks are fighting against sexual violence, not for better access to basic services — both aim to use a woman's anatomy as a force to be reckoned with instead of manipulated. But whether either redefinition is successful, only time will tell.


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