No water, no sex, wives tell husbands women want Turkish village's system fixed

September 2001

U.S. Water News Online

ANKARA, Turkey -- No water, no sex.

That's what a group of women from a village in southern Turkey have told their husbands, who have been banished from the bedroom until they fix the village's water system.

For months the women of Sirt have been forced to line up in front of a trickling village fountain for water that they carry home in large containers, a walk that for some can be miles.

And they have had enough.

"One of the women launched the idea as a joke, but it is serious," Faliha Sari said of the boycott, which began about a month ago. "It's natural. ... When we cannot wash ourselves and cannot wash our clothes, we don't want to do other things," she said shyly.

Islam demands that followers bathe after having sex.

Sari, who was interviewed by phone, said most of the women in the village were dealing with the same water problem, but she did not know how many women were refusing sex. Sirt, near the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, has some 600 residents.

Local newspapers said the bedroom boycott in Sirt appeared to have been inspired by a popular Turkish movie. In the 1983 film, women in a village refuse sex to protest having to work the fields while their husbands sipped tea or played backgammon at the village coffee shop.

The sex boycott also recalled Lysistrata, a play by Greek playwright Aristophanes in which Athenian women, fed up with the Peloponnesian War, barricade themselves in the Acropolis and go on a sex strike to force their husbands to vote for peace with Sparta.

Villagers say the 27-year-old water system breaks down frequently, leaving the village without running water for months. But this time, the women took action. And it appears to be having some impact. In recent days, men have asked the municipality to fix the village's water supply system or give them the parts.

"Our women are right to protest, but we're the ones who are suffering," a Milliyet newspaper quoted village leader Ibrahim Sari as saying. Sari could not be reached by telephone. Most of Sirt's villagers are related and have the same surname.

After the boycott began, the men asked a visiting local governor for government help to repair the village water system. They also asked him to give them materials so they could fix pipes.