How Common Criminal Violence Affects the Poor

Last year I read a an eye-opening book called The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. I’m going to tell you what I learned, starting with some saddening facts and statistics.

  • In Peru, 47% of women and girls are rape victims.
  • Between 2001 and 2008, three men in Bolivia were convicted of rape under the law. There are an estimated 100,000 rapes annually.
  • As of the writing of this book (published 2015), in Kenya, a country of 48 million, if a girl or woman gets raped, there is a single doctor who works for the police in Nairobi that they must see to prove that they were raped in order for the law to accept their complaint if they wish to press charges against the perpetrator.
  • In Malawi, a country of 15 million, there are 10 public prosectors who are able to defend the poor in the case of them being wrongly accused of a crime.
  • In many countries, when a person is convicted of a crime, they often spend nine months in jail awaiting the date of their trial.

There are many factors that keep the poor in the developing world (some countries are actually failing to develop) in poverty relating to common criminal violence in otherwise stable countries.

Sexual Violence

There are potentially 10 million rapes around the world each day. The threat of rape is a reason that girls in some countries in the developing world do not go to school. In some places, if a woman wants to report to the police that she has been raped, they refuse to take her complaint. They ask “What were you wearing?” and “Did you like it?”

Slave Labor

India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, may have over 10 million people living in modern-day slavery. “Employers” will go through a middleman and claim to a poor person that they will give them a $10 (USD equivalent) loan to come to work for them. Billions of people live under two dollars USD a day, so that is a lot of money for them.

So they go to the mine, brick factory, or forest to start working for this employer and become trapped. They are not allowed to leave for food, schooling, or medical needs. They have to buy the food they need from their “employer” and it is at a price so that they cannot pay off their loan, accumulate interest on it, and are forever indebted to the employer. This is called debt labor and it is slavery.

Armed men guard the workers and beat them if they don’t work hard enough. If they try to escape, the factory owner bribes the local police to hunt them down and bring them back to the factory. In some places, the factory owner pays the police to come into the factory to beat the workers in attempts to instill fear in them.

Police Violence

In the United States, it is a huge deal when police kill an unarmed black man. In Kenya, police go through the slums and arrest men walking down the street. They take them in their car, and accuse them of a crime they did not commit, and claim that they can be released if they pay them a fee. If they cannot afford this fee, they are in big trouble, often being placed in prison for months without a trial

Colonialism and The Legal System

Many countries in the developing world, especially in Africa and Asia, were colonies of European powers until the 1950s, 60s, or 70s. The law enforcement and criminal justice systems under the European colonial system were not made to serve the needs and enforce the rights of the common person. Their purpose was to protect the power and dominance of the ruling (and often white) elite.

As many of these countries gained independence, the people who gained control of the government and law enforcement positions in the newly founded nations found that the systems that benefited the European elite could now benefit them as the ruling elite, so they kept them. This means that the legal system in many countries does not put effort towards solving the average criminal case of the poor, such as robbery or murder.

Many of these new legal systems remained untouched within their newly independent countries and even retained the same European languages. In many countries, English or French is not the language that the poor speak; they only know their native languages. This means that if a poor person is falsely accused of a crime, they will not understand what they are being told when they are arrested or when they go to court.

If they are read their rights in a foreign language, they have no idea what these rights that they are entitled to under the law are. They have no opportunity to defend themselves because they cannot understand the language of the legal proceedings, and of course, are not given a free defense like we have in the United States.

To learn more about the crisis of common criminal violence, get The Locus Effect by Gary Haugen or watch his TED Talk.

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