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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Q&A: Instability of a nation

Allison Rubenak, editor-in-chief, sits down with Valerie Hudson, professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service.
THE BATTALION: Could you explain what Boko Haram is?
HUDSON: Boko Haram literally means that Western education is “haram” or forbidden for pious Muslims. They have been attacking numerous schools, as well as other targets. The group says its goal is to enforce Shariah law across the land, and attacks against non-Muslims are part of that objective. The girls were kidnapped from their boarding school, ostensibly to be sold on the marriage chattel markets to raise money for the group.
THE BATTALION: How is gender suppression and other cultural practices intertwined with the kidnappings?
HUDSON: After almost 20 years of intensive research on the topic, My colleagues and I have found that one of the most consistent predictors of instability and violence within a nation is its treatment of women. That is, what the culture sanctions for women becomes the template for how the society responds to any who are “different,” whether that be different ethnicity, religion, race, etc. When one half of the population has very little say in the circumstances of their existence, when violence is normalized against them, a strong foundation for oppression and violence is sown within the society.
THE BATTALION: How does the practice of polygyny, the practice of having more than one wife, reinforce gender roles in the northern part of Africa?
HUDSON: Both Muslim and non-Muslim cultures in West Africa are highly polygynous. Polygyny has been shown to be a tremendous “push” factor for recruitment into violent anti-establishment groups, because the system creates a permanent underclass of young men who are not able to be married. They have very little stake in the society—indeed, they suffer a sense of deep aggrievement. Highly polygynous societies are among the most unstable and violent societies on earth.
THE BATTALION: How does your area of expertise assist you in understanding the larger context of gender subordination to the particular situation in the Nigerian kidnappings?
HUDSON: The situation of Nigerian women is on a par with sub-Saharan Africa generally—which is to say it is not very good. Polygyny is common; girls have very little say in whom they marry and when; cultural norms sanction routine violence against women; women have fewer rights under family law and fewer property rights than men. Girls are “sold” into marriage—the groom’s family pays a brideprice to the father of the bride in order to marry her. In a way, kidnapping girls to sell them on the marriage market makes sense for a group such as Boko Haram.
THE BATTALION: You were selected to receive a $900,000 grant for the Minerva initiative. How will the grant better serve the Department of Defense?
HUDSON: The Minerva Initiative’s purpose is to provide the Department of Defense with knowledge and insight produced by social scientists in academia. Oftentimes the world of academics and the world of the Defense Department do not overlap, and that means DoD may be missing out on important insights that could change the way it approaches security problems. The Minerva Initiative was designed to overcome this barrier. Our particular project will focus on how household formation systems and marriage markets influence the stability and resilience of nations. Not coincidentally, we will be doing fieldwork in West Africa.
THE BATTALION: What about the topic of gender subordination, especially regarding the kidnappings, interest you?
HUDSON: It has become increasingly clear that unless there is peace between men and women, there will be no peace in our world. How the two halves of the human species interact provides the horizons for peace, security, health, prosperity, and stability of human societies.
THE BATTALION: Why do you think these kidnappings garnered worldwide attention?
HUDSON: I think both Boko Haram and the Nigerian government were both quite surprised—which is not surprising. The kidnapping of these girls is to these male leaders more like a massive theft than a massive human rights violation. The idea that in many other countries this could be seen as a horrifying crime never occurred to them. This underscores the point that the true “clash of civilizations” is the clash of “gender civilizations” — between civilizations where women are viewed as full human beings and those where they are not.
THE BATTALION: Why do you think it has taken the Nigeria government so long to find these girls?
HUDSON: Again, first, I think their belated reaction has something to do with how they processed the kidnapping—as a massive theft, and not as a horrifying human rights violation. After all, Boko Haram has previously killed schoolboys outright. The Nigerian government is also no champion of women, and does not see itself in that role. Furthermore, the Nigerian military is viewed as corrupt and deeply involved in human rights abuses of its own. No one should have expected the Nigerian government to jump on this.
THE BATTALION: Do you think the global reaction of outrage has impacted the way the Nigerian people view the Nigerian government’s response to the kidnappings?
HUDSON: That I do not know, but would very much like to know. Has the worldwide outrage allowed Nigerians to see this kidnapping in a new light? What is very sad is that the education of girls is key to a better future for Nigeria. The girls who were kidnapped came from families where that connection was being made. These girls represented the best hope for their country.

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