By Sineke Sibanda
While militarism is a key state institution necessary to achieve ultimate peace and stability, the way its duties are carried out is somewhat a threat to achieving safety in the home, education, which ultimately hinders peace in the world as well. Today, I want to demystify two types of militarism because in some countries, it is not just ‘war militarism’ that exist, a second type of militarism has emerged, this type is called ‘religious militarism’.
Safety in word and deed implies that ultimate state of being free from the occurrence of any risk, danger or loss. But to be quite frank, most African countries have not yet reached absolute democracy where we can talk of absolute freedom. In any case, freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom that anyone is entitled to but we can’t certainly finish counting the countries where that clause only exists in some constitutional paper; freedom of expression can be criminalized.
This reminds me of recent demonstrations that took place around the country under the hash tag #FeesMustFall. Quite a number of students in South Africa and some western countries managed to successfully pull through with these campaigns and had them yield results that somehow created safety and flexibility in their education. By achieving zero-percent increments from the proposed radical hikes was a milestone for both the boy and the girl child in some parts of South Africa.
However, I remember sadly of a tale that happened here in Zimbabwe when university student leaders decided to demonstrate against unfair treatment of girls at their institutions, lack of policy reforms and to government’s silence to address immoderate fee hikes, a heavy military hand was unleashed against them and most of the female students were detained and others heavily beaten. In essence, militarism has continued to create a docile generation of students, who are aware of the abuse of their rights still continue in silence for fear of being victimized. What hurt the most is that some of the military agents that participated in this brutal act were female as well, meaning that our governance systems still continue to divide us, especially women who need to be more united for us to achieve good results in our fight against raising the bars of equality and similar recognition for all as we avert gender-based violence. The divide and rule principle is being implemented and this is what has kept us a patriarchal society, crying about gender based violence and doing nothing about it. As long as we continue to appreciate such forms of governance (divide and rule), it will be difficult to plummet this activism into visible action.
I want to note with all honesty today that acts of militarism have kept us in abject penury while other nations progress. Our military priorities have actually annihilated the social protection and safety of men, but largely women, both in the class and society. We continue to live in fear because in seeking protection, many have met very abusive encounters of rape in DRC, Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia, femicides, trafficking while in other countries such as Nigeria, religious militarism has claimed the lives of many innocent girls. Abductions of girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram and similar fiascos happening elsewhere in the world being perpetrated by religious militia also needs urgent attention for us to achieve absolute peace both in the home and the world. Genital mutilation, girl-child labour, child prostitution and child marriages still remain a key part of some African societies and these actually keep our shout against gender based violence a silent one.
However, in all this mess that we are in as the world, we need to corroborate towards erecting structures that make life safer for both the girl and boy child In society, in class and everywhere else. As long as we continue to divide our efforts, our goal will be far. Lets join hands and fight gender-based violence.