Peace has varied meanings and interpretations. Some may say there is peace when a ceasefire is reached or when a peace agreement is signed. Others may see peace as a more expansive process that involves the abolishment of structural violence, racism, inequality, and vulnerability.
For peace to exist in its most expansive form, all forms of violence must be put to an end and the structures that reinforce or perpetuate violence are to be dismantled. To understand peace, we must understand the forms of violence that prevent its existence.
Direct violence: Violence in its physcial form such as murder, torture, rape, beatings or sexual violence. This could be an all-out war between states or domestic violence within one’s own home.
Structural violence: This is a form of violence that is embedded in systems that prioritise certain groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc., over others in terms of goods, resources, or opportunities. An example could be Apartheid or the prioritisation of boys’ education over girls.
Cultural violence: Aspects of culture in the form of underlying beliefs and attitudes that may be exemplified by religion, ideology, language and art, to justify structural or direct violence. An example could be the glorification of war and violence, or inflammatory speeches made by leaders and politicians.
We strive for the eradication of direct, structural, and cultural violence. This would result in positive peace which is not only the absence of direct violence and war (negative peace), but the presence of cooperation and understanding between people.