The 67th anniversary of Human Rights Day falls on 10th December. The event has a special significance as it coincides with the United Nations initiative of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which was envisioned to be achieved by the end of 2015. On the occasion whole the globe is going to be a venue of many a march and many a seminar. There are still certain cynic voices which categorically disapprove any significance attached to the day for they allege it to be backed by the foreign agendas and their vested interests. Yet, given the scale of human rights abuses across the globe, its commemoration does not seem without a rationale.
Coming on the heels of World War II, which witnessed the nightmarish rejoinders of a fanatical brutalisation of human behaviour, the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on 10th December 1948 revealed the maturing of human mind and mores regarding the basic political and social rights of men, women, and children inhibiting the mother earth. But still there are several countries which continue to get a poor rating in studies on the subject. Still not enough efforts have been devoted to the overall monitoring of the human rights abuses across the world which continues to undermine the dignity of man.
In Indian subcontinent, poor people still sell themselves both in the farm as well as brickkiln sectors and thence make themselves and their families bonded slaves of the lenders for all time to come. Besides, the dilemma of casteism remains firmly embedded within the subcontinental social fabric and culminates in discriminatory attitudes and practices. In Middle East, the humanist voices have not been able to entirely persuade the elitist power structures to see reason which renders these polities akin to iron-fisted police states. Europe as well as the United States are experiencing the ugliest phase of the dominant ideology of capitalism. Its corollary in the form of rampant consumerism has now entered its advanced stages and eroding the moral fabric of these societies. The cancerous progression is further hastened by spiritual drought which is plunging them into an appalling perversion and excesses of western decadence, thereby undermining the sublime dignity of the human person in noble sense of the word.
Historically, Africans have made the maximum sacrifices for human civilisation. But despite this they stand deprived of their several basic rights even today. In many African nations the citizens are not only hounded and preyed like animals but majority of them continue to live on the level of serfs. Africa still falls within that historical epoch which has witnessed certain brutal genocides over the past few decades assisted by the widespread weaponization as well as inbuilt apathy on the part of its governments towards the plight of their masses. In addition, the cybercrimes, intranational ethnic conflicts, human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, drug trade, and several other organised criminal activities and gross inhuman vulnerabilities across the world continue unabated. Still the human blood flows profusely in several parts of the world.
The global analysis further confirms that the plight of women remains a source of concern to anyone who understands the sensitivity of the issue. In several Asiatic societies the birth of a daughter is still received with discontentment which points towards the parental selfishness and societal discrimination. Most often women are the sufferers everywhere and in many cases unable to access justice even when subjected to harassment and outrageous exploitation of several types.
Similarly, children are routinely exploited by their employers in many countries of the world. Child labour in several parts of the world continues to be a social problem. Underlying it are the economic factors as well as the irresponsible attitude on the part of society. With declining or no source of income to maintain a family, adults fail to feed all their dependents. Thus, economically hard-pressed sections either abandon their children or send them to menial work regardless of their sex or age. Children who should be playing and going to school are forced to earn at a tender age to keep their family units intact and their body and soul together. Particularly in these times of doom and gloom when the cost of living is skyrocketing and the basic necessities are getting beyond a common man’s reach, child labour becomes a logical reality for many.
The constant onslaught of the western human rights organisations upon the third world countries for their negligence regarding child labour seems to be partly based on the old colonial premise that uncivilised oriental societies have no regard for the human rights. But it is pertinent to mention here that several structural reforms pushed forward by the international multinational organisations since the 1950s for the economic good of the recipient counties are also partly responsible for the deteriorating living standards of the poor countries. With every reform the state coffers get depleted due to massive corruption and misallocation of funds. In order to cut the deficit, social sector and developmental outlays are further reduced.
Consequently, the first victims of the fabled ‘trickle-down effect’ are normally the children besides the pinch felt by the overall society. Moreover, due to the growing cost of living, low wages also justify and prompt the existence of child labour in various manufacturing units like sporting goods and carpet industry etc. In reality, low wages increase the size of profit of local producers and exporters to western countries. Resultantly, the developed world has been the major beneficiary of cheap labour and the subsequent child labour from the developing world. In this way child labour becomes an instrument of transferring the capital from poor countries to the rich ones.
Sadly, violation of the human rights is a disease to which our own society also remains vulnerable irrespective of the assurances extended by the constitution of the country. Many of the articles of the constitution are routinely nullified by those resorting to violation and abuse including Article 11 which states that “All forms of forced labour and traffic in human beings are prohibited,” and “No child below the age of Fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment;” and Article 14 “The dignity of man…shall be inviolable.”
Today what is at stake is the dignity of man. We are all in one way or another responsible for this. When a certain class prefers to remain silent on important matters related to human dignity it becomes an unconscious contributor in perpetuating the overall societal sickness. Instead of realising that the cure has to come from within our negligence, apathy and tendency to blame each other for all the ills staring us in the face only puts the vital issues on backburner. It may provide a temporary escapism or psychological relief but unless the deplorable facts are changed for better the dignity of man will continue to suffer.
On the global level there is still a greater need of raising awareness about the human rights. It is hoped that while the human rights activists and organisations will continue to create a growing public awareness about the strict observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the individual governments of every nation would also do well to adopt the effective measures to ensure their implementation in letter and in spirit.
It is a high time that governments around the globe foster policy frameworks and ingrain attitudinal changes aiming at the dignity of man. There should be a serious, concentrated and composite approach to overcome the human rights abuses. At the same time we should not forget that we all have a collective responsibility to defend the rights of man. Only through the collaborative efforts between governments as well as people will we be able to achieve any substantial and meaningful results. In such a process the overall benefits will be mutual.
“Every spectator is a coward or a traitor,” said Frantz Fanon. Each one of us has to play his or her part and pragmatically and immediately needs to get engaged in the human condition which could otherwise further slip away from the paths of decency, harmony and sanity. It is the time to stop blaming each other and instead assume the responsibility of bringing about the required political and social changes about human rights by working together. Let us not forget this sacred duty we owe to each other and to the posterity. It is the only way in which all of us in our individual capacities can add our bit to the sum of human dignity. Let the dignity of man be held above all. Let the human rights ensure that dignity.
Writer: Inayat Atta
The writer is a civil servant and researcher, works as a columnist with THE PASHTUN TIMES. He has an M.Phil Degree in history from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at
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