The action became known in the Colombian media as the “crossed-leg strike” because of the women’s refusal to have sex with their men until they promised to give up violence.
Pereira, a city of 500,000 inhabitants, has one of the worst crime rates in the country, with 488 recorded murders last year; 90% of gang members killed were aged between 14 and 25.
The women produced a rallying song for local radio, which went: “I choose how, where and when I give in. Women united against violent men. Let’s close our legs.” One striker said of her boyfriend: “I would prefer him getting angry to having to go and cry at his funeral.”
The lure of criminality was as much the desire for status and sexual attractiveness as money, according to reports on Colombian radio. The women adopted an ancient tactic used by the women of Athens to halt the Peloponnesian war — if Aristophanes’s play Lysistrata, written in 411BC, is to be believed.
Alvara Uribe, the president of Colombia, has cracked down on crime by doubling spending on law enforcement and expanding the police force by 25%. The numbers of political murders and kidnappings dropped by 80% last year.
In the Pereira region, which is situated in the heart of Colombia’s coffee-growing area, there were 97 murders per 100,000 people last year.
It is too early to tell whether the “crossed-leg strike” will have encouraged gang members to sheathe their weapons permanently.