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Structural violence refers to type of violence that is based on the systemic ways in which a given institution harms its people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. This essay will discuss structural violence and give specific examples in three different countries of the world and how the violence affects the society.
Violence is defined as the expression of either physical or verbal abuse against the will of a person or a group of people. All over the world, violence is used as a form of manipulation. Violence can be used in a very wide spectrum from the confrontation of two people which may result to slight injury to a big outcome of war and genocide where the resultant can be millions of people losing their lives.
Structural violence is a term attributed to John Galtung and was first used in the 1960s to refer to a form of violence in a systematic way in a particular social structure by denying people a particular social structure which harms people. Examples of structural violence include such forms like racism, classism, seism, adultism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and heterosexism. People's lives are reduced when they are influenced either socially, politically or are exploited commercially. The two types of violence, structural violence and direct violence are highly interdependent, structural violence inevitably conflicts direct violence. In this essay we will discuss three structural violence in three countries; Uganda, Ghana and Haiti).
Examples of structural violence in Uganda
Uganda is an East African nation on the eastern sides of Africa. Uganda has for a long time deprived its northern and north eastern regions of social services and has a discrimination culture in which members of a certain tribe unite to gain some form of either political or economic power or both. Tribalism in Uganda has been a contentious issue since her colonial days when the British ruled the country and also during the dictatorial regimes after independence in 1962 and surprising enough during President Yoweri Museveni's rule since 1986 (Structural Violence).
President Museveni was born in western Uganda and his father comes from the tribe of Banyankole tribe. The president always clashes with the King of Buganda especially over power issues and influence in the central part of Uganda. Tribalism is rampant in Ugandan institutions including public universities and in parliament. There are employment discriminations depending which tribe one comes from around the country. These can be the Ugandans of Indian background, refugees from DRC, Somalia, Sudan or Rwanda. Example is when a refugee from DRC is charged more for taxi fares simply because of their background. Also, discrimination can be based on commerce background where you find that a Ugandan of African origin will rarely visit an establishment owned by a fellow Ugandan of African origin but will frequent that of an Indian (Structural Violence).
Slums in Uganda also present blatant abuses of human needs. Structurally, it is quiet difficult for slum dwellers to access education, healthcare, employment, enough clean water, enough food, shelter as well as the opportunity to leave the slum and access a safe healthy environment. This thus blocks several of slum dwellers in Uganda in accessing the same kind of services that the rest of the people can access and enjoy.
Another area of concern is the education system in Uganda. The country has a education curriculum that focuses on lectures and exams that rarely requires critical thinking for students to graduate to the next level. To couple to this, education in Uganda is not available to all and as like in all other countries, wealth is directly tied to educational opportunities thus locking out those who cannot access even basic education.
Corruption also denies the country and its citizen's basic needs. The country absorbs millions of dollars as foreign aid but much of this money is misappropriated and ends up in a few people's pockets. This kind of corruption denies the country good infrastructure excluding several Ugandans from numerous services. Some of these services include financial markets, education, employment opportunities and overall information which are enjoyed by other countries. This makes Uganda to be shunned by such developed countries and majority of multinational companies hence denying the country goods that cannot be market in Uganda. Also, due to its lower GDP, Uganda receives low quality goods and even pharmaceutical drugs endangering its populace (Structural Violence - From USA to Uganda).
Structural violence in Ghana
Although Ghanaians pride themselves on the fact that they are emerging leader among African nations economically, politically and socially, there are nevertheless some serious structural violence issues that do exist and need be addressed.
Structural violence in education system in Ghana
Like in any other place in the world, those with enough money receive the bet education for their children. To achieve success in life, education is considered very crucial and now in Ghana, education is compulsory. But the biggest problem to this is how can the government ensure that each child receives decent education without discrimination? Despite education reforms in the country, the education system continues to be a source of suffering for the poor masses. The public system in Ghana has been faltering over the years and so the most affected are the poor who cannot afford private education and are the ones who suffer the most. With a poor education, the poverty stricken can only afford poor public education and with a poor education, those who are living in poverty cannot build the cultural capital to achieve success in the future. This way, structural violence forces are at play (Opportunity and inequality).
The Ghanaian education system problems can be traced back to colonialism in which British school system designed to teach subservience and acceptance of doctrine usually through violent means. The system also ensured dominance of the British because the system did not encourage free and analytical thinking. The colonialism legacy by the British remains alive in Ghana and clearly, the education system is not working to the advantage Ghanaian poor. A teacher blogger argues that students in public schools are not learning much. The curriculum is based on yearly exams which focus on exams rather than the issues affecting the country. The government has only been able to reform and adapt the education system western standards. In this way, western education is being imposed on the Ghanaian education system which is often irrelevant to the pupils' reality of their daily lives. To couple to this problem, public schools are extremely underfunded and lack such basic resources like textbooks, chalk and chalkboards (Opportunity and inequality).
Basically, the adoption of the western model of education in Ghana is a challenge to the government. The government needs to adjust the education system to reflect what is in their country and also due to globalization attempt to empower Ghanaian students with cultural capital which is necessary for success in a globalized world (Opportunity and inequality).
Structural violence in Haiti
This part will demonstrate structural violence in Haiti and how it is linked to democratic dynamics which are seen as the struggles that have continued since the independence war. While structural violence cannot be blamed for causing Haiti's earthquake it has everything to do with the Haitian context before. The Haitian culture has been linked to the tyrannical nature of slavery and its impact on the country's established institutions spreading to the subsequent dictatorial regimes that have brutally maintained power by force. Here brutal and authoritative regimes were employed for two reasons; to maintain power and to quell any dissenting voices especially those that resist and fight established power (Patrick Sylvain 331).
In the 1960s, Johan Galtung, an anthropologist focused his work focused his work in Haiti especially on structural violence and social medicine. According to him, since structural violence is closely linked to social injustices and social machinery of oppression, the systemization of oppression must be deconstructed. Haiti as a nation has been marginalized and colonial controls have ensued political chaos in the country. As a result, in 2007, Haitians had to pay for their forefathers uprising more than 200 and 300 hundred years ago. After independence from tyrannical French, Haiti experienced continued tyrannical regimes. The presence of structural violence has been the antithesis of democracy. (Patrick Sylvain 333-334).
Example in 1957-1986, a vast majority of the people were constantly demanding proper representation in the government. This was particularly due to the oligarch nature of power and the urgency of unmet needs hence constant opposition to regimes. The three decade rule was especially hard for many Haitian poor as they were beaten down by family dictatorship who ruled through violence. Officers of the regime went on rampage seizing land and established a feudal economic system that benefitted them. All these started early in the county's history during which the time new school system were constructed in the country but were used by the urban elite to serve their needs exclusively in the expense of the poor masses. This clearly shows how education remained the preserve of the exploitive system. Leisure activities did not enter the slave or ex-slave dictionary as they were seen as production machines even after independence. As a result, repression became the order of the day in most Haitian institutions. This kind of behavior in Haiti is linked to the tyrannical colonialists and later dictatorial regimes (Patrick Sylvain 337).
We have looked at the definition of structural violence which involves the form of violence in a systematic way in a particular social structure by denying people a particular social structure which eventually harms the people. We have also looked at some specific example of structural violence in Ghanaian education system, the Ugandan government and Haiti's dictatorial regimes.