Course Professor’s Name
Human Rights
While the world may be forging forward and making significant progress in the fight against poverty, there is a silent catastrophe of everyday violence that is quietly destroying the lives of countless poor people all over the world. Most people when they hear about poverty usually relate it to hunger, famine, diseases, illiteracy, lack of clean water, and generally never immediately think of the world poor’s chronic vulnerability to violence. Vulnerability to violence can make even the well-off households in developing countries vulnerable to poverty[1]. Without the world noticing, common violence including senseless killings, illegal detention, police abuse, forced labor, sexual violence, oppression and other kinds of brutality has taken a forefront and become the norm in the world’s poorest communities[2]. And like a horde of locusts violence devours everything in its path thereby completely blocking the road out of poverty which ultimately means that development will never occur. Haugen and Boutros call this unique pestilence of violence and the persistent impact it has on the efforts to lift the poor out of their poverty the Locust Effect. Common violence is a current continuing issue that all developing countries are facing at this moment. However, it is a silent issue that most of the world is unaware of and as a result, no one is up in arms trying to address it. But one has to wonder, how did this wave of violence grow so ferociously without the world noticing? Haugen and Boutros in their book “The Locust Effect: Why the end of Poverty Requires the End of Violence”, provide the world with a detailed account of how this outbreak of common violence has grown so viciously in the world’s poorest communities and the measures it will take to combat this epidemic.
Analysis of the Problem
Currently, the world boasts of a twelve percent population who live in harsh poverty compared to seventy five percent two hundred years ago[3]. Harsh poverty in this case means people who live on less than one dollar a day. For the world this should be good news, however, it is not since today’s high population growth places twelve percent at around eight hundred million people which is exactly the same absolute number of people living in abject poverty as two hundred years ago. Therefore, this means that for two hundred years, the world is exactly where it has been with the same number of people living below the poverty line. Poverty is a complex and hidden phenomenon. It is hidden in that, the world cannot see all the ways that it is affecting the lives of those in it and it is complex in that one does not understand all the reasons behind it. One of the major hidden and complex causes of poverty is common everyday violence against the poor.
Most acts of common violence take place beyond the view of the world and the whole world misses what goes on behind the scenes of some of the developing countries[4]. Most acts of violence against the poor are intentionally hidden to outsides. Everyday violence is not a result of massive conflicts involving big armies, but it is actually a result of criminals in these poor regions. These criminals are usually stronger, richer people in these communities who can commit any kind of criminal offence without having to face the consequences since they can easily bribe local authorities. In the book, Haugen provides the reader with a real-life case of a gruesome rape and murder of an eight year old girl which was committed and covered up in a Peruvian town. In this case, Yuri, an eight year old girl was raped by two assailants and her dead body dumped just in the streets a few blocks from her home. Overwhelming evidence was found in the assailant’s home with a bloody mattress and Yuri’s bloody clothes all over the house and it seemed like it would be a slam dunk prosecution case where the murderers would end up in prison. However, this was not the case since the family of the victim could not pay to take the case to court. Yuri’s family was not allowed to have a representative present at the autopsy but the assailants’ lawyer was present which was highly unusual and which led to the evidence obtained being thrown out. As a result the killers were never brought to justice instead an innocent poor boy of eighteen was coerced, molested and beaten by police officers to confess to the crime a was sentenced to thirty years in a harsh and dangerous Peruvian prison.[5] This heartbreaking case is a clear example of how it works in developing countries, if one has money, they are able to get away with anything, even rape and murder since they can pay their way out of anything.
As Haugen and Boutros point out, similar crimes like that of Yuri’s rape and murder are happening rampantly all over the world’s poor communities. In Malawi, poor women and men face physical threats of violence including murder, theft, burglary and robbery[6]. In Thailand, poor people are in constant fear of violence and do not feel safe[7]. In Brazil, poor people have reported waves of violent experiences in their everyday lives[8]. In Ecuador, poor people report facing an assortment of physical dangers including rape, muggings, murders and robberies[9]. In Nigeria, poor people report theft of food, armed robbery and general fear of violent crimes[10]. These findings were reported in the “Voices of the Poor” report sponsored by World Bank in 1999. From this report, it was concluded that poor people list violence as their main problem which is laying waste to their lives and communities at large.
Many poor people have become so accustomed to this common everyday violence that they do not speak of it as a separate phenomenon but have simply accepted and absorbed it into their normal lives. Additionally, those who have suffered these traumatic violent experiences find it shameful and have a hard time talking about it. They find it humiliating and degrading and would rather hide it than speak openly about it. Moreover, the perpetrator of the crime works extremely hard to hide his crime from outsiders. For these reasons, the perpetrator, the victim and the entire society would rather hide than expose these acts of violence especially to outsiders.
Perhaps the most ghastly and painful form of violence affecting the poor is sexual violence. Extreme vulnerability and victimization, especially of girls puts them in a susceptible position of getting sexually abuse. From every corner of the world’s poor communities including Pakistan, Argentina, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, women and young girls reveal personal stories of sexual assaults and domestic violence[11]. It is reported that one in every three women across the globe has either been beaten or forced into sex or abused in her lifetime[12]. These rates are even higher among poor women and girls. Studies suggest that 49 percent of Ethiopian women will be assaulted, 48 percent of Ugandan women, 62 percent of Peruvian women, 35 percent of Indian women, and 34 percent of Brazilian women[13]. For these women, sexual violence feels like a threat everywhere even the place they should feel most comfortable, at home, they still face this threat. There is a high rate of sexual assault of women by relatives mostly in cramped quarters of the poor. Home can be a place of silent, lawless brutality for the poorest women and girls[14]. Sexual violence is not only an epidemic in these communities, but also a business. In the world, every day, there are millions of rapes and sexual molestations taking place for money. Some of these girls are lured into forced prostitution with promises of a better life devoid of poverty. It is estimated that forced prostitution brings in over eighteen billion dollars in developing world countries. Forced prostitution like other violence against the poor is against the law, however, it goes on day in and day out because victims have no money to ensure protection against it.
With such gruesome violence happening all over the world, one has to wonder, how come these people never get any justice and how come these perpetrators of these crimes never pay for their crimes? As Haugen and Boutros point out in the book, it is not that poor people do not get any laws, but that they do not get any law enforcement[15]. Elites in these communities can easily manage to purchase their own private protection to protect themselves against violence leaving the majority of the poor vulnerable to violence. Additionally, these elites benefit more from a lack of law enforcement since they are able to avoid accountability for any violence they commit against the poor. Their ability to bribe the local authorities gives them the ability to get away with any wrongdoing, for instance, the murders of Yuri were able to escape any accountability since they were rich and bribed the police and the hospital. As a result, they were never prosecuted and even paid the police to frame and prosecute an innocent poor boy who is currently serving thirty years for a crime he did not commit.
To start combating this problem, Haugen and Boutros suggest that colonial law enforcement systems need to be abolished since they are a contributing factor to the prevalence of violence. This is because they are designed to protect the government from citizens instead of protecting the citizens from crime and acts of violence. Additionally, the elite needs to reinvest their money in public justice systems instead of building parallel abusive private justice systems. Moreover, the International community needs to open their eyes to these acts of violence and invest in practical criminal justice systems with the aim of helping the poor in developing countries. However, the broken criminal justice system in developing countries is such a massive undertaking that would require a lot of time to fix. For this reason, wisdom implores the world to pick a few places to pursue experimental projects which will relentlessly push for transformation in these justice systems so as to actually protect the poor from violence. International Justice Mission in conjunction with others including Haugen and Boutros have already started these projects of structural transformation which entail provision of advocacy for victims of human rights abuse in developing countries. These projects have acted as a beacon of hope for these communities. These projects assist in diagnosing what is broken in these criminal justice systems and form the basis of starting to fix these systems to actually protect the poor from violence
History is filled with horrific stories of poor farm families forced to watch helplessly as locusts devour their crops leaving them with nothing to harvest and squandering their efforts to ever make it out if poverty. Likewise, we are at a point in time where every day violence on the poor is squashing all the hope they ever had of ever making it out of poverty. The locust effect described in this book is that locusts (violence perpetrated by bullies in the communities) comes through and destroys all the efforts that the world has made on combating poverty like hunger programs, education, provision of clean water and shelter. The poor therefore, find themselves in a position where their opportunities, freedom, health, and income constantly being stolen and as a result cannot be able to move forward if justice systems are not fashioned in a way so as to protect them from these acts of violence.
Brigitte Rohwerder. The Impact of Conflict on Poverty. GSDRC. (2014) Retrieved from
Deepa Narayan and Patti Petesch. Voices of the Poor: From Many Lands. New York: Oxford University Press (2002). Available online at 115210798/full.pdf
Fact Sheet: “Violence against Women Worldwide.” New York: United Nations Development Fund for Women (2009). Available online at
Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros. The Locust Effect: Why the end of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Oxford University Press. (2014).
Ian Vásquez. “Ending Mass Poverty.” Cato Institute. September 2001. Available online at
World Health Organization. Claudia García-Moreno, Henrica A. F. M. Jansen, Mary Ellsberg, Lori Heise, and Charlotte Watts. WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women. Geneva: (2005). Available online at
[1] Brigitte Rohwerder. The Impact of Conflict on Poverty. GSDRC. 2014.
[2]Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros. The Locust Effect: Why the end of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Oxford University Press. (2014).
[3]Ian Vásquez. “Ending Mass Poverty.” Cato Institute. September 2001.
[4] Haugen and Boutros, 2014.
[5] Haugen and Boutros, 2014.
[6] Deepa Narayan and Patti Petesch. Voices of the Poor: From Many Lands. New York:
Oxford University Press (2002).
[7] Ibid, 368.
[8] Ibid, 181.
[9] Deepa Narayan and Patti Petesch, 2002
[11] Ibid
[12] World Health Organization, WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women. Geneva 2005.
[13] United Nations Development Fund for Women. Fact Sheet: Violence against Women Worldwide, 2009.
[14] Haugen and Boutros, 2014.
[15] Haugen and Boutros, 2014.