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On the Matter of Human Rights and the UDHR

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on February 25, 2009


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As I have traveled the various on line discussion groups, forum sites and mailing lists in the last ten years, I have come across some interesting, to say the least, ideas about human rights, what they are, who has them, who has them not and most curious, how they are obtained and retained.

People from all walks of life have expressed their views on these ‘issues’, and it seems that a majority of people do not grasp even the basics of what exactly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) means. It seems, people think that some people do not have any human rights, or are not entitled to some human rights and that some things are human rights that are not. All of it based on their own personal prejudices and preferences, often ruled by religious dogma or political agendas.

I have found people to be abhorrently uneducated, willfully ignorant and deliberately obtuse when faced with these thirty simple principles for human conduct, human society and human interaction.

It is all quite simple. Human rights are not earned, nor can they be forfeited or lost. They are not bestowed and they cannot be revoked. Every human being has them from the day they were born until the day they die, without exception.

“Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

This indisputable fact notwithstanding; people in civilized countries will not only claim that it is not true, they will actively work to violate the human rights of people they deem unworthy. People like prisoners, former criminals, children, women, GLBT people and foreigners. These people are thought to have some status ailment that disqualifies them in the eyes of the people who will abuse their human rights. Yet, article 2 of the UDHR clearly says that no single, real (or imagined), status may be used to deny anyone their entitlement to all the rights in the UDHR which are the birth-right of every human being.
In the US, prisoners and former convicts do not have the “right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives” because they may not vote (article 21). Those same prisoners are also subjected “to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (article 5) when they are required by American law to inform potential employers of their crime and their conviction. This requirement frequently lead to them having their “right to social security and realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of personality” violated, because they are rejected by employers and cannot earn a decent living (article 22 and 23) due to their criminal past.
Many criminals and former criminals are “subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence”, and “attacks upon his honor and reputation” (article 12) when their names, location and crimes are made public in the press and on the Internet, either as part of news stories or as listings that take on the likeness of witch-hunts. These witch-hunts are clearly intended as an incitement to violation of these people’s human rights and often lead to former criminals being physically attacked, some times resulting in their death. Article 12 explicitly says that “everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”, yet the lists on the Internet and news stories, which are known to incite people to perpetrate such attacks are legal in the US. All because in the US some people are not considered human beings.

Women and children do not seem to be considered human beings either. Women are consistently paid less than men, a violation of their right to equal pay for equal work (article 23). Women and children are routinely subjected to attacks upon their honour and reputation (article 12), when, in sexual abuse/rape cases, they are questioned about their sexual practices, morality and or drinking habits; it is implied that they invited sexual attention, all as a matter of routine in such cases. Lawyers are routinely allowed such degrading and cruel lines of questioning and argumentation by the court system and the judges. Such lines of questioning and argumentation are also violations of article 12 which stipulates that everyone has the right to protection by the law against such attacks.

GLBT people are also routinely subjected to violations of their human rights, not only when they are harassed and attacked by the general public (article 7), but also in the very legislation of the US, which refuse give them the right to marry (article 16). The UDHR doesn’t specify that men may only marry women or that women may only marry men. It specifies that men and women of full age may marry. Not a word about marriage being between a man and a women. The UDHR specifies the family as a fundamental group unit in Society that is entitled to protection by society and the State. The UDHR doesn’t define ‘family’. This means that siblings may not be separated and f.i placed in different foster homes – society and the State must protect the “family group unit” of those siblings and make sure that they are placed together, no matter how young or old they are. Not to do so is a violation of their human rights.

Millions of people in civilized countries have their human rights to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (article 25), violated, even in national legislation when minimum wage is not  set sufficiently high to provide a safe and secure standard of living, health care and unemployment  payment are dependent on previous savings or insurance payments. This is especially grievous when it strikes children. Article 25 especially specifies that all children shall enjoy the same social protection, and still they don’t, not even in the richest countries of the world, such as the US. Not all children have a home, a family, and safe place they can call their own, nor do alll children have the same protection before the law. Children from wealthy families, educated families or politically powerful families are rarely tried as adults or have to serve time in detention centers, simply because of who their parents are, how much money or education their families have. In fact, children from wealthy families, educated families or politically powerful families rarely see their parents go to jail, not because their parents don’t commit crimes, but because their parents aren’t either found out or are aquitted in court due to what is considered their social standing. This is a violation of their human rights. Being held accountable, being considered responsible for one’s actions are actually human rights too, and every time people are not held accountable or seen as responsible for their actions in accordance with their mental, intellectual and spiritual faculties, their human rights are being violated.

The UDHR doesn’t only protect human rights, it also protects human responsibilities, (article 1). With each of the thirty principles of Rights of the UDHR comes an equal principle of Responsibility to make sure that the right stated is given to each one of the human race.

This is another indisputable fact, which to many is not self-evident. I have found that many people seem to be very adamant about their rights to all sorts of things, especially in the area of the right to freedom of expression (article 19), even to a point where they actually promote violation of this right when it comes to others. I.e they claim the right to say anything at any time in any place they like, but are at the same time claiming that others do not have this right. if what others say either does not agree with them or point out that what they say is hurtful, demeaning and  abusive. Apart from being highly hypocritical it is also wrong, according to the UDHR.

They have no problem incarcerating people  based on a mere suspicion that they might belong to groups of people they have dehumanized, but if people from that dehumanized group should treat them or their friends similarly, they start screaming about rights they denied their alleged adversaries five minutes earlier.

They don’t mind subjecting people they consider lesser than themselves to cruel and inhuman treatment, like water boarding, but if those “lesser” people decapitates some of their friends on national TV, they scream bloody murder.

The fine things about the UDHR is that it’s for all people, regardless of who happens to be popular any given week. The UDHR guarantee that any violations of human rights are the same regardless of who perpetrates them and regardless of who is the victim of such violations.

None of the rights enumerated in the UDHR may be used to violate any of the rights enumerated in the UDHR (article 30). This is the guarantee that we are all responsible as well as imbued with rights the same as everyone else’s.

My safeguarding another’s rights means that in the end I am safeguarding my own rights.

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