Diffusing Military: A Gender Camouflage
We live in an ever-polarizing world, where nations choose to resort to weapons, arms, and military to safeguard their political and economic interest with a mask of integrity and nationalism. As obvious as it is that the military is a culmination of various violent tendencies, we often neglect the state of the people subjected to it. Their voices and opinions get lost in the crowd of political questions regarding nations and their power. While there is always a discourse of military spending or externalities, there’s little or no discussion on the ground reality of normal lives, especially from a gendered lens. What leads to the military being tyrannical? How do gender and hierarchical institutions come to play a role in this? What are the plausible implications and their solutions? To explore these questions further, here is Perspectoverse’s Saachi Singh.
In Kashmir, which is renounced as ‘heaven on earth’, women walk on roads with the fear, besides many others, of being subjugated to the tyranny of armed men who under the veil of governance and militarisation take liberty in assaulting them, young girls are kidnapped, raped and murdered, and the LGBTQIA+ community does not even get a platform to be alive in their true sense. Is the ‘heaven’ synonymous with being the highest militarized area in the world, does it mean a storehouse of weapons and a haven for armed tyrannical men? If not, then who is it a heaven for?
Militarization is commonly thought of as a process that fundamentally changes the dynamics of a society, it can be a formal institution as well as an informal and intimate one- affecting interpersonal relationships. It has been reinforcing the notion that social stability is best achieved through hierarchical gender relations. Democratic rhetoric notwithstanding, masculinity continues to be the currency for domination and exclusion. In this sense, the military is the embodiment of a patriarchal institution that affects women and non-binary people in a negative sense, perpetuating stereotypical roles, only this time, with the legitimate use of violence.
Throughout history, social institutions have been propagating the idea of ‘the passive woman’, and because armed missions also demand certain physical stature, women have long been put out of the institutions that affect their lives so deeply. Be it the accounts of imperial warfares in world history or the world wars, the role of women always been negligible, leave combat positions, they weren’t even offered decision-making roles.
Even after the guns go silent, militarization persists and hence, we need to surrender the often-cherished idea that when open warfare stops, it is reversed. Kashmir, Cyprus, Rwanda, and Afghanistan are all examples of contested areas, and the list doesn’t end here. But the main reason as to why they are contested always turns out to be the power dynamics between religious, ethnic, and cultural groups, political parties, and nations, led by men. These are also the areas where women and the LGBTQIA+ community face the most violent and sexual offenses, inflicted upon them with the breach of their identities. Because this issue fails to offer empirical evidence due to the ignorance of governments, it exists being unrepresented. But personal accounts and realities work as an alibi of the problem.
In 1939, more than 82% of eligible youth (age 10-18) belonged to the Hitler Youth or its female equivalent, the League of German Girls. While girls prepared for their futures as wives and mothers, boys participated in military training. It wasn’t just ethnic minorities that were subject of the tyrannical power of the nazis but the nazi women themselves. Recent historical research has revealed German women and girls were also targets, subjected en masse to a wide range of sexual violence allegedly committed by American, Canadian, British, French, and Soviet soldiers. More recently when we talk about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan we cannot (turn head) on the fact that their religious stringent, aided with arms and ammunition, affects women and non-binary people the most. Raping young girls and murdering them, blocking their way as they pass the street, or infringing their right to education is all result of militarisation in this area.
Queer and trans rights are always impeached in such situations. Violent tendencies and the legitimate validation of the power of armed forces add up on the social stigma, to make life worse for them. In Kashmir, transgenders are one of the most vulnerable groups that face sexual harassment by armed men. This community has always been put off the Venn diagram of lives and liberty in these areas.
But there’s another angel to this problem. While direct relationship between armed forces and communities affect them deeply, governments, indirectly reduce their quality of life. In economic terms, the expenditure inculcated on military is done at the cost of welfare programs, and in most the contested area the beneficiaries of these programs are women and children, militarization makes them more socially vulnerable. But to ignore the effect on men is an offense. Often, men who voluntarily want to keep out of forces and their propaganda are let down by family and the societal pressure that reinforces patriarchal institutions and the idea that men are the ‘protectors’ and women the ‘protected’. The rate of violence inflicted by men on other men is also high and reflects internalized corrupt use of power.
A gender perspective is important in understanding militarization and combating it. Palestinian women speak of sumud, which translates to resilience and represents a form of resilience that supports others in the larger frame of civility, that helps them to maintain their honor, dignity, and physical presence in the area frequently invaded by Israeli forces. But when it comes to military seeping into the depth of the society, sumud is not enough, we need a more combating force that can persuade leaders into efficient policies and implement stringent laws, and the international organizations to give life to their numerous regional missions that do little right now.
Providing a platform to women and non-binary people ensures a safer and conducive space to gauge the needs of these communities and craft public policy, especially when it comes to militarised areas is a plausible solution. Feminist antimilitarists say that mainstream understanding of war is deficient and much more deficient is the political representation of women and the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s the responsibility of various stakeholders to challenge military interests that weave into diverse lives, practices, discourses, desires, affecting them negatively, because the world cannot see another innocent person succumbing to the tyranny of national interest.
Written by Saachi Singh
Illustrated by Disha Kariwal
Genderandsecurity.Org, 2021, https://genderandsecurity.org/sites/default/files/Elveren_and_Moghadam_-_Impact_of_Militarizatn_on_G_Inequality_and_F_Labor_Force_Participatn.pdf.
"The Impact Of Militarization On Gender Inequality And Female Labor Force Participation | The Consortium On Gender, Security And Human Rights". https://genderandsecurity.org/projects-resources/research/impact-militarization-gender-inequality-and-female-labor-force
Cynthia, Enloe. “Understanding Militarism, Militarization, and the Linkages with Globalization”. Essays on Gender and Militarization, Women PeaceMaker Program, 2014.
"Hitler Youth". Encyclopedia.Ushmm.Org, 2021, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/hitler-youth-2
Svedberg, Erika. "Militarization, Women, And Men: Gendered Militarizations". Oxford Research Encyclopedia Of International Studies, 2012. Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.263.