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Lose The Gun Or Sleep On The Sofa!

Women in one of Colombia's most dangerous cities have taken the rampant violence on with the only weapon that may defeat guns and ammunition: the power to deny their men any sexual relations.

Dozens of women in Pereira have joined the so called "crossed legs strike," hoping to help the local government's disarmament effort.

One gang member's girlfriend said withholding sex was proving a powerful incentive. "The boys listen to us. When we close ourselves off a bit they listen to us. If they don't give up their weapons, then we won't be with them," Margarita told AP Television.

Almost 500 murders were reported in Pereira last year. The town, nestled in the mountains of Colombia's coffee growing region, is one of the areas where drug trafficking gangs and heavily armed militias still wield a lot power on the streets.

Like most Latin American countries, Colombian society is strongly male-dominated as far as governance and public life are concerned. But women do play a very strong role within households and family structures.

This position may give the women of Pereira just the edge they need over their husbands and boyfriends to make the "crossed legs" campaign work, at least to some extent.

"They say that if we don't drop our weapons, they won't be with us anymore," said a local gang member, who called himself Caleno. "We need our women, and you'll change for your woman."

Colombia's four-decade long internal war between leftist guerrillas, the government, and right-wing paramilitary groups has bestowed upon the country a reputation as one of the most violent in South America. Murder, extra-judicial killings and kidnappings plague the government of President Alvaro Uribe.

Uribe was elected in 2002, vowing to crack down on the rebel groups and the paramilitaries responsible for much of the violence.

His methods, though often the source of much controversy within Colombia, have seen results. Killings and other crimes have dropped, and according to Peace Commissioner Luis Restrepo, more than 22,000 right-wing fighters, 28 regional militias in total, have demobilized under a peace deal between the paramilitaries and the government.

Uribe is often criticized as being too soft on the paramilitary groups, which, though illegal, essentially share a common enemy with the government. In a key hurdle to Uribe's effort, however, Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has rejected the government's truce deals.

A second round of talks with the smaller, but still powerful rebel group the National Liberation Army, or ELN, was scheduled for mid-February in Havana.

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