When a group of Colombian women first went on a ‘sex strike’ in protest of the crumbling road leading out of the area it seemed such an unlikely protest that they’d never achieve their goal.
Dubbed the ‘crossed legs movement,’ the women of the small town of Baracoas refused to have sex with their significant others until the road that connected their small, isolated town to the rest of the country was repaired.
The road had been often closed because of frequent flooding and mudslides and could take 24 hours to travel down. Reaching the nearest hospital involved a journey of up to 14 hours.
The group of approximately 300 said they withhold sex because many young women were at risk of dying in child birth on their way to the hospital.
At the time, strike leader Ruby Quinonez said: “Why bring children into this world when they can just die without medical attention and we can’t even offer them the most basic rights? We decided to stop having sex and stop having children until the state fulfils its previous promises.”
After three months of abstinence, the Government pledged funds to re-pave the road, but this did not materialise.
Recommencing their protest years later, the group said men in the town were eventually spurned into helping fix the road, and Columbian army engineers ended up re-paving problem areas.
Maribel Silva, a Barbacoas judge and a spokeswoman for the Crossed Legs movement, said that “at first, the men were really angry. But it worked.”
Stories from the town back the strategy.
“My husband was mad at me” said Maria Gonzalez, a local protester “He said he agreed with me about the road but said there was nothing we could we could do about it. I told him he would have to wait forever if he didn’t join our protest. He waited two weeks and then became one of our strongest advocates.”
“My husband thought I was joking” said Isabel Lopez, ” but he soon changed his mind when he realised how serious I was.”
The Barbacoas road was built decades ago and much needed repairs have been sporadic. While the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC have been weakened by a US-backed military offensive, they remain active which helps explain why Colombia’s roads an often stay in such states of disrepair.
The Colombian Government eventually allocated $57 m towards fixing the road.
Power to women and power to protest.
While there are reports that some women vowed to continue the strike until the final mile of road was completely paved, it is not known whether these individuals are representative of the campaigners as a whole, nor is there evidence of the strike’s continuation after this point.