Human rights urgency

December 10 is Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights (source of  the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action) created the United Nations post of High Commissioner for Human Rights. Internationally, there’s still much work to be done.

Here in the United States, the most urgent human rights problems include:

Sexual trafficking. The FBI notes that “Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery,” that it is the fastest growing business of organized crime, and that “The United States not only faces an influx of international victims but also has its own homegrown problem of interstate sex trafficking of minors.”

Mass incarceration. This national disgrace violates, among other human rights, the right of freedom from discrimination. See these articles in:

Capital punishment. States that maintain the death penalty violate many human rights—as does the federal government which permits such violations. Moreover, conditions on death rows constitute torture—another major human rights violation.  See this (pdf) fact sheet or watch the video.

Poverty. Income inequality and its handmaiden, poverty, are both causes and effects of human rights violations—including  economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for human  dignity (Article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights).

The U.S. is marketed as home of the free and the brave, but members of the privileged class who view rights solely as freedom to pursue their own wealth and power at all costs (i.e., costs to the less privileged) are neither free nor brave. Rather, they are the slaves of their own greed and the perpetrators of their own worst nightmares.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

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5 Responses to Human rights urgency

  1. Liz Dorso says:

    It’s really eye opening to see that, although tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, how much work still needs to be done to ensure the rights of all people. The list of problems in the United States alone is frightening realities that need to be met with action. These examples are all clear violations of human rights. I believe we had a discussion in class about how closely human rights are tied to the act of abuse and that fundamentally, abuse is always a violation of human rights, be it human trafficking or child abuse. The fact that we have these rights encompasses all our actions and this can be seen in all instances of violence.
    Everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from has rights. Hines and Malley-Morrison delves into what these rights are quoting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating “”all members of the family” have “equal and unalienable rights” and that recognition of these rights is “ the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”” (H&MM pg. 9). This declaration makes a point to say that human rights belong to all members of the family. What’s so sad is that there are countless examples of every member of a family experiencing abuse. Women and children obviously experience this violence the most but men and even elders are also abused. Regarding violence against men, about “in 2009 0.9 out of 1,000 men were assaulted by an intimate partner, most of whom were women; these men represented 18% of IPV in 2009 (H&MM pg. 175). That is almost 20% of all intimate partner violence. I’m not making a case that men are as worse off as women, but just trying to make a point that violent acts are perpetrated against every member of a family, despite the fact that each of these family members has “equal and unalienable rights.”
    How is a violent act a violation of human rights? Expanding more on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Hines and Malley-Morrison points out the article “most relevant to family maltreatment, states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”” (H&MM pg.9). I believe any act of violence committed against another person is a clear violation of this statement. Let’s consider children. Children are essentially helpless, with a great number of cases in which the parents are the abusers. They constantly live in a place where they are harmed, physically or psychologically. Neglect is the number one form of abuse and to neglect a child, to the point where they are on the verge of death from lack of food or loving care is extremely cruel.
    Working our way from the bottom up, from abuse cases within a single home, to human trafficking on a global scale, we can see that there is still an almost callous attitude towards the concept of human rights. I think it’s safe to say we’ve made some strides through the years but there is still so much more to be done to ensure that everyone feel as though they possess the rights that we are all born with as humans. The examples I used were all just within the United States. The kind of violence that takes place outside the United States is even worse and the only way to reduce the amount of violent acts and to make sure everyone have access to their rights is to join the fight.

  2. Gold Dust Twin says:

    THE PHRASE “SEX TRAFFICKING OF MINORS” STRIKES FEAR INTO THE HEARTS OF EVERY RESPONSIBLE PARENT. WE IMAGINE THAT THIS COULDN’T HAPPEN TO OUR FAMILY, BUT ALL TOO OFTEN A HEADLINE REPORTS THAT A TEENAGER IS MISSING, AND FAMILY AND FRIENDS START PRAYING FOR HIS/HER SAFE RETURN. THERE CAN BE FEW TORTURES WORSE THAN THIS WAITING PERIOD. WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT THIS? SERIOUS TALKS BETWEEN PARENT AND CHILD, STARTING WHEN THE CHILD IS OLD ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THE WARNING: DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS. ABOVE ALL, DON’T EVER GET INTO A STRANGER’S CAR. PERSONAL STORY: I ONCE CAME CLOSE TO HITTING A TEENAGER WHO WAS WALKING ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THE STREET IN AN AREA FILLED WITH SHADOWS. I PULLED AHEAD AND STOPPED MY CAR WITH THE INTENTION OF ADVISING THE YOUNGSTER TO WALK ON THE SIDE FACING THE TRAFFIC. SHE LOOKED ALARMED AND HURRIED AWAY FROM ME. IN HER EYES, I COULD BE A BAD GUY. I RESPECTED THE TRAINING SHE HAD RECEIVED AND WENT ON MY WAY.

  3. Anna Tam says:

    “If you protect a woman, you are protecting humanity.” This quote from actress and activist Salma Hayek exemplifies the pervasive problem of the maltreatment of women. Unfortunately, this maltreatment can be seen in the sexual trafficking of young girls around the world. It can also be seen in the homes of women who are abused by their husbands.
    Wife abuse is common in many cultures, especially among the small population of Native Americans. The problem is so severe that it has been deemed a widespread social problem in Native communities, where 12.2% of Native couples reported violence against the wife in a survey conducted by the National Family Violence Resurvey in 1985 (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 5, p. 84, 2004). According to a report from 2001, American Indian women were victimized by intimates at rates that were much greater than other ethnic groups.
    However, this problem is not just limited to the population of Native Americans. in African American cultures, women were revered in pre-colonial, pre-slave days as priestesses, warriors, advisors to kings and chiefs, agricultural consultants, and crafts makers (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 6, p. 105, 2004). Despite this history, there is evidence that Blacks may commit more physical wife abuse than members of other ethnicities (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 8, p. 128, 2004).
    Latina girls are more likely than members of other ethnic groups to be sexually abused by family members and more reluctant to disclose the abuse because of familism, a cultural value that emphasizes the family as the single most important social institution in the Latino culture. This is also a reason victims of wife abuse have been unwilling to escape spousal violence. The people of this culture value the family over the individual, which makes it especially hard for abused wives to leave if they have children (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 9, p. 151, 2004). According to the National Family Violence Resurvey of 1985, the incidence of wife abuse in this population was significantly greater than those for the White community (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 11, p. 174, 2004).
    Asian American family values are similar to those of Hispanic/Latino because they valued family harmony, which is characterized as avoiding open expressions of conflict within the family (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 12, p. 202, 2004). But suppressing these feelings may lead to resentment and conflict, which could explode in a fit of rage and ultimately lead to family violence. However, large-scale studies consistently show that Asian American women experience less spousal abuse than women of other groups (Malley-Morrison & Hines, chap 13, p. 209, 2004).
    As people of this society, we should protect women so everyone can have the same chance at equality and human rights. No one should have to live in fear or feel trapped because their culture supports keeping families together and discourages conflict among family members. A major problem in all of these cultures, which leads to wife abuse, is poverty. The challenge to freeing our world of violence is the fact that many people around the world are impoverished, which leads to increased stress in trying to raise their families, which ultimately leads to an increase in violence.
    However, I believe people like Malala Yousafzai and revolutionary acts show that a peaceful world is not impossible. These leaders can influence many changes around the world to prevent the various types of violence mentioned in this post. Unfortunately, the prevention of violence and the change that is necessary to live in a peaceful world comes with hardships. As Yousafzai states in the video, “for my dream of peace, to see all human beings happy, for every girl to go to school, equality, and justice, I must struggle, I must work hard but I can’t do it all alone. I need people. We can all achieve our goal if we are together.”

  4. Jay says:

    It is often unfathomable to me the atrocities we are can commit against another human being, and yet the pains and injustices seem to rule from country to country. How can we claim to be such a civilized society, a people at the peak of ingenuity, scholarship, and culture, while we watch these rises in sex trafficking, poverty, and incarceration? What bothers me the most is not clearly knowing a solution to such a large and growing contamination within the hearts of people. Religion or various spiritual ideas have often been proposed as a greater solution, yet we have seen the human distortion and misinterpretation of religious texts lead to even more violence and injustice (H&MM, CH 13, 428). Within the Qur’an, a single chapter has been argued using four different interpretations to justify wife beating, regulate wife beat, or condemn wife beating (H&MM, CH 13, 430-431). Clearly, the problem is not in the text but our interpretations of it and the inherent (for some) desire for these texts to justify the maltreatment of their spouse. Parents have used the wrath of God to coheres their children’s behavior in ways easily identified as psychological abuse (H&MM, CH 13, 435), and the Catholic church has been riddled with scandals of child molestation in recent years. Although religion has been shown to be a protective factor against violence (H&MM, CH 13, 448), it seems that many people use it to justify their behavior and intimidate their victims (H&MM, CH 13, 438). All of this brings me back to a lack of understanding: clearly Rousseau’s assertion that man is basically good cannot be true or we would not see such a perversion of religion, or a rise in human sex trafficking. The fact is maltreatment of our fellow humans has somehow been ingrained in who we are, and the ultimate solution seems ever elusive.

  5. Sunanda Sharma says:

    As a so-called “super power” on the international stage, the United States has shown itself to be one of the biggest violators of human rights. As Professor Malley-Morrison points out, the privileged few are the ones who have been guaranteed the right to healthy lives and prosperity. A particular marginalized group in America is the Hispanic/Latino community; despite the fact that many Latinos are third-generation citizens, they fare just as poorly as their first-generation counterparts (Malley-Morrison & Hines p. 158). Due to cultural expectations that many Latino men hold of themselves, which may often be coupled with their history of family violence – they push the concept of machismo too far (p. 152). In addition to Latino families being subjected to life under the struggles of life in America, Latina women face the added burden of coping with their husbands’ or partners’ demonstration of machismo.

    The literature and research for this particular ethnic group is still growing but past studies have shown the need for less “ethnic clumping” which could provide a better understanding across cultures from several Spanish-speaking countries (p. 174). One feature of IPV in Latina women in America that is distinct is immigration status; the fact that these women have to put their immigration status ahead of their health and safety should be proof of our broken immigration system (p. 182).

    The U.N. has noble intentions of securing human rights for all but as many of the figures in the video point out – there is a long road ahead.

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