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Historical and Political Causes of Structural Violence in Haiti

Structural violence is a word that was first used in the 1960s. Initially, structural violence denoted a type of violence that was practiced by a particular social structure that involved killing people slowly but gradually to prevent them from achieving their potential. This in essence means the destruction of essential human rights decreases the potential of an individual. This is meant to lower the potential of a person to meet basic needs to a level lower than what would have been possible. The life span of people greatly decreases when they are oppressed socially, politically, or even economically. Structural violence in most cases leads to conflict and violence including family conflicts, terrorism, genocide, and war. Desperate measures to access resources, classism, political authority, education, heterosexism, as well as legal standing are some examples of structural violence. (Gilman)

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Haiti’s structural violence began in the long period of exploitation and misuse that started with slavery during the colonial period. This followed dictatorial regimes that were oppressive to the people without any mercy. Haiti became a French Colony in 1697 and a revolution rose in 1791 among the black population of over 480,000 slaves leading to the declaration of independence in 1801. Haiti became the first independent black republic. The rise of the revolution led to a weak economy due to continuous conflict between the blacks, the light-skinned mulattos, and the neighboring communities. (Farmer)The country was under dictatorial rule leading to much more violence. In 1941, General Duvalier came to power. His rule brought political instability due to the cruel policies in his police force. He died in 1971 and his son Jean Claude succeeded him. By then Haiti was the poorest country in the world.

The son and father’s rule which lasted between 1791 and 1986 brought much suffering to the people of Haiti. In this era, intellectuals and writers voiced their grievances against social injustices and especially structural apartheid. This led to their execution and it became clear that those who opposed the government would pay with their lives. Structural violence arose in the education sector where the black majority was not allowed to go to school and human dignity was violated. In this era, activism was not allowed because it was perceived as being against government policies. Dialogue between the government and the people was not an option for the people. (Gilman)

Then in 1980, the country faced an AIDS epidemic leading to the collapse of the tourist industry leading to unemployment and poverty. In1991 Jean Bertrand Aristide, a Roman Catholic Priest became the president of Haiti. In President Bertrand’s regime, things did not change at all. If anything violence and oppression rose to alarming levels at this time. His regime was overthrown by a military coup in September 1991. In the years of military rule, the economy went down and over seven thousand people were killed. A scholar by the name of Chouchou Louis was brutally murdered by the military for unintentionally asking a rhetorical question about democracy. The health care system of the country was destroyed and many other economic activities went down. (Farmer)

The French colonialists were violent to the Haitian people where they were enslaved until their revolution and hence independence in 1801. This did not stop the violence and the many problems that the country was experiencing. The nation of Haiti experienced a great deal of structural violence because of the authoritarian regimes that came on after independence. They have however fought a hard battle to free themselves from the chains of oppression and the fight is still on. The U.S and the United Nations have also played a great part in helping the people of Haiti come from the chains of oppression. Haiti has the highest rate of AIDS, malnutrition, disease, and infant mortality in the western region.

Works Cited

Farmer, Paul. “On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below”, Journal Article Excerpt 125.1 (1996)

Gilman, Robert. Structural Violence. 1983. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 5). Historical and Political Causes of Structural Violence in Haiti. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/historical-and-political-causes-of-structural-violence-in-haiti/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 5). Historical and Political Causes of Structural Violence in Haiti. https://studycorgi.com/historical-and-political-causes-of-structural-violence-in-haiti/

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"Historical and Political Causes of Structural Violence in Haiti." StudyCorgi, 5 Nov. 2021, studycorgi.com/historical-and-political-causes-of-structural-violence-in-haiti/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Historical and Political Causes of Structural Violence in Haiti." November 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/historical-and-political-causes-of-structural-violence-in-haiti/.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Historical and Political Causes of Structural Violence in Haiti'. 5 November.

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