Walter Bagehot said that the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
And the women of Zimbabwe want to do just that by repealing parts of the country’s “censorship and entertainment control” law, specifically the parts regarding sex toys.
The importation and possession of sex toys in Zimbabwe is illegal and punishable with jail time. Often referred to as “archaic”, the law is still being enforced all over the country. Last year, two women were arrested both for selling and possessing a sex toy.
“The [Centre for Human Rights Defenders of Zimbabwe] is arguing that the law is draconian, archaic and infringes on women’s rights to sexual pleasure, right to choice and association,” the organization said in a statement on social media.
Deemed to be “indecent” and “obscene”, the government claims that the ban on sex toys is to protect the public from its perversion. Women’s rights activists believe that isn’t their decision to make.
Sitabile Dewa, executive director for the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence, filed court papers suing the government for infringing on these rights.
“The act bars the importation of sex toys. This clause infringes on women's rights to choice, association and pleasure,” Dewa said to VICE.
Despite the ban on sex toys, there are several sex shops in Bulawayo and in Harare, Zimbabwe’s two biggest cities. Authorities state that the items were imported illegally.
Women’s rights campaigners argue that legalizing sex toys will allow for better regulations, similar to the ones imposed on items such as alcohol, cigarettes, and condoms. Many view the ban as an attempt to control what happens in the homes of private citizens, specifically women.
“Sex is not really seen as a thing for women,” Debra Mwase, a programs manager with Katswe Sistahood, said to the Associated Press. “Sex is for men to enjoy. For women, it is still framed as essential only for childbearing. Sex without a man becomes a threat.”
Sex is a taboo topic in many conservative countries and cultures. However, just because it isn’t discussed doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It didn’t used to be this way.
A common pre-colonial southern African tradition known as “Chinamwari” would help women learn and understand sex and sexual desire. These gatherings would provide advice on how to pleasure a man, educate women about their bodies and how to use them, as well as provide encouragement and empowerment.
Now, secret meetings are advertised online and on social media to those who still want to learn.
The subject can be a difficult one for many to approach, especially those who are inexperienced and uneducated. Hosting forums and chinamwari meetings allows for open conversations to happen. The more people talk about it, the less uncomfortable they are with it.
“These laws would have been repealed a long time ago if the majority of users were men,” Dewa said.
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