Structures of Violence: Defining the intersections of Militarism and Violence against Women

By Joy Yakubu

Joy Yakubu from the YWCA of Jos, Nigeria, World YWCA intern in 2008, shares with us her reflections on the theme of the 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women “Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women.”

Recently, there was media frenzy around the Nigerian Government’s threat to take Iran to the UN over the interception of containers loaded with arms at one of the sea ports in the country. The origin and destination of this cargo was quite clear cut, but the purpose of this import remains blurry. The again, anyone can rightly guess what arms are used for. Then I wondered, this is just one incident that caught the attention of security operatives and consequently received much publicity. What about others that might have succeeded in getting such a consignment into the populace?

The spate of conflicts and pockets of armed violence around the country have formed a scaffold for the proliferation of arms because, sadly, people now feel they need these arms to ensure their safety and security, and perhaps also to use them in settling other disputes, including those that occur in the home.

Conflict, in whatever form, has taken a disturbing turn in recent years. Communal clashes, political riots and confrontations by religious extremists have taken their toll on the safety and security of women and girls in their homes and communities – places where, ironically, they should be safest. Armed confrontations seem to be the chosen method of settling disputes these days, be it political, communal or even religious. In some cases, women are deliberate targets of violence, and in other cases they are most affected because they are considered ‘easy’ targets. Often times when conflicts erupt, women are left to seek refuge in military formations, public places (schools, hospitals, government buildings, churches, mosques, etc), YWCA centres/schools and internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps. Even under these dire circumstances, women and girls still face violence. They are sometimes raped, and other times they are forced to exchange their bodies for basic necessities like food, water or shelter. There have been instances where women give birth without medical assistance in IDP camps, or at home, because it wasn’t safe to go out, this has contributed to increasing the rate of maternal and infant mortality in the country. When acts of violence are not directly carried out on them, they are forced to live with the psychological effects of such acts carried out on male members of their families.

What often baffles me is that, most of the time the immediate and remote causes of these periodic bouts of conflicts and violence are known, but little or no preventive action is taken to stop them from occurring, despite the fact that a huge allocation of government funds are said to be set aside for security, in addition to halting developmental projects and sometimes suspending government workers’ salaries to supplement the security budget. Violence is nevertheless always allowed to erupt. This makes the people, most especially women and children, suffer undue hardship before attempts are made at curative measures. So I wonder, why allow it to happen in the first place? In addition to carrying out research on the cause of violence, governments must take steps to prevent violence before it starts.

It is comforting to know that the YWCA is part of the “16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender Violence,” which for two decades now has sought to address issues around various forms of violence women face every day. This year, it takes a look at militarism as a multifaceted structure that perpetuates violence. In some areas progress is being made, while in some, a lot still needs to be done and so the struggle continues.


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