While the content of structural violence was well amplified by Gandhi in his writings, Johan Galtung, a peace researcher, developed pedagogy around the concept of structural violence which is not inflicted physically on another but is hidden in structures.
Indirect violence, according to Galtung, includes both Structural and Cultural violence. He defined it as a violence that does not hurt or kill through fists or guns or nuclear bombs, but through social structures that produce poverty, death and enormous suffering. Structural violence may be politically repressive, and exploitative; it occurs when the social order directly or indirectly causes human suffering and death. When people starve, for example, even though there’s enough food for everyone, the distribution system is creating structural violence. However, the direct violence is noticed quickly as it injures or kills people instantly and dramatically often resulting in early remedial response.
Galtung argues that violence is built into unequal, unjust and unrepresentative social structures, which produce social groups who have low incomes, low education, low health, and low life expectancy. The human and social costs of this kind of silent, indirect violence are often higher than those of direct physical harm. Such systemic violence denies the larger population from meeting their basic human needs.
The episodes of structural violence are less perceptible as they remain embedded in the exploitative, hunger and illness-producing structures. Disempowered and marginalised people suffer and die in silence due to structured inequities- local, regional or may be global. It is easy to correlate the inaccessibility of health care and life-saving systems to unequal and unfair distribution of society’s resources.