Structural Violence and the Stoning of Homosexuals in Brunei

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Structural violence has been around since the beginning of time. Women have been told to stay at home and do housework, homosexuals are not allowed to express themselves in public without repercussion and so much more. Those who live in poverty are faced with structural violence because those who enforce this violence are the people in power. Therefore, poverty-stricken people are not able to overcome their hardships without the help of those who are more powerful. The aims of this paper are to get to the root of what structural violence is and where it can be seen in the world today.

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I am going to explore the country of Brunei and their new law that includes stoning of practicing homosexuals. 

This is a recent and very obvious example of structural violence that is being faced by a minority in the Southeast Asia island. Structural Violence Structural violence occurs when there are laws, economic barriers or social guidelines that can cause citizens harm in their everyday activities. Structural violence is a deep-rooted cycle that tends to mostly affect those who are in poverty or a minority. Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist talks about political violence and how this contributes to structural violence in his article, “On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below”, and he gives an example of how those in power have driven those in poverty into worse conditions where there are more disease, starvation, and death. (Farmer, 2009, pp. 11-28). This becomes a cycle that gets passed down from generation to generation leaving those who are faced with structural violence still affected. 

Structural violence is what some may call a root metaphor. People believe that there will be structural violence everywhere and there is no way to escape. Although everyone cannot be pleased always, there are still policies and systems that could be more welcoming and helpful to those who face harmful situations in their everyday life. Gender Inequality Structural violence can be seen in many different ways, but Paul Famer highlights the gender inequalities in Kay, Haiti through a story about a young woman named, Acéphie. Acéphie who grew up in this small village was given an opportunity to leave the village as a sexual partner to a Captain. She was later infected and killed by AIDS (Farmer, 2009, pp. 11-28). This shows the power that these paid soldiers held over poor women. These women felt that they had no other escape for poverty other than to be sexual partners. Political Violence Paul Fisher shows the violence that citizen of Haiti faced form the military with the story of Chouchou. Chouchou, a Haiti citizen that was living in poverty made comments on a truck that an out-of-uniform solider did not think was appropriate. He was then taken off the truck, beat and put in prison. He was later put back into prison after visiting his sister and left in a ditch to die after being beat (Farmer, 2009, pp. 11-28). This shows the power that the army had over the people as well as the lack of freedom that the citizens have to speak their truth. There were no laws that protected citizens from brutality putting them at risk of painful, unwarranted deaths. 

Social Inequality 

In Paul Farmers study, he shows us how those in poverty do not have a say in what happens to their lives. There was a dam built around the village of Kay that caused previous farmers to move up a mountain in order to get away from flooding that was caused by the dam. This caused these families to become impoverished which lead to starvation, disease, and death (Farmer, 2009, pp. 11-28). The decision of those in power was made without consideration of those in that village because they were poorer and left with no voice or place to live. Structural Violence Among the Homosexual Community of Brunei With the progression of acceptance that has been happening throughout the world, the news of anti-gay laws in Brunei has the world in shock and resistance. In the small monarchy island of Brunei, there is a heavy presence of Muslim citizens that practice Islam. This island is small but has received their wealth from oil, leaving the ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the wealthiest men in the world (Magra, 2019). Bolkiah says that this new policy, which allows homosexual citizens, adulators, extramarital sex and abortions to be punished by stoning, is religiously driven (Magra, 2019). Although political leaders from other countries have expressed anger toward this law, Bolkiah has no intent to change his mind or the law. This is a very prevalent example of structural violence because the lives of citizens are put in danger due to their sexual preferences. This relates to the history of the religion and political violence that Bolkiah has established through this law. Influence by Religion Islam does not accept the practice of homosexuality, sexual intercourse outside of marriage and abortions. 

The mixture of religion and politics is used in the country of Brunei which makes it so that everyone who lives there is forced to follow the rules that the religion has established. This is an example of structural violence because those who do not follow this religion but live in Brunei are forced to live by these laws. Bolkiah, the leader of Brunei tells the press, “Brunei ‘is a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country and, like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of laws,’” (Magra, 2019). Although Bolkiah is not breaking any rules, he is creating an unsafe environment for those in his country. Through the passing of this law, in some cases (unspecified) the law only affects Muslims and other cases it will be implemented to all citizens. The connection between church and politics has caused those who do not practice or choose to live in this country to be put at a higher risk of brutal death. Political Violence Bolkiah, a member of the Islamic religion, is the main leader of this small island of Brunei and he decided to take action in order to remove these sexual choices from his citizens (Magra, 2019). Brunei is a dictatorship and is led by one ruler who has all of the power; therefore, he makes all of the decisions without consideration from his community. Whereas, in other countries, such as America, citizens are able to vote who is in power as well as have a voice in decisions made by those in power. 

This power that Bolkiah has is an example of structural violence that has been around since the beginning of this country. These citizens who are apart of this country have never been able to make decisions that would benefit them, instead, they are subject to whatever their leader wants to do. The actions of Bolkiah shows that he does not want to establish a country that has diversity, instead, he would rather everyone be the same and practice equally. The lack of understanding and communication between the ruler and the citizens causes the voice of the community to not be heard, therefore leading to a lack of understanding and consideration for those in a minority group such as homosexuals.


View Structural violence affects many throughout the world but is not always talked about. In this situation, other countries have addressed the problem and are working to fix it. The laws that are being passed that allow stoning as punishment are putting the lives of the minority citizens in Brunei at risk. These citizens are having religious rules pushed upon them by the leader of the country. The lives of homosexuals are now put at risk and they are required to hide their lifestyle in order to maintain citizenship and life. 


  1. Farmer, Paul. “On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View From Below.” Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts, vol. 3, no. 1, 2009, pp. 11-28. 
  2. Magra, Iliana. “Brunei Introduces Death by Stoning for Gay Sex and Adultery, Despite International Outcry.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Apr. 2019,
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Structural Violence and the Stoning of Homosexuals in Brunei. (2021, Apr 16). Retrieved from