Stand up for all rights

Uphold the values of equality, liberty, and human dignity.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A year ago, a video of Dalit students eating mid-day meals separately from other students at a government school, in Ballia, UP, went viral.

On September 14, this year, the body of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died after she was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men, was cremated without her family’s consent in Hathras district, UP.The court asked the District Magistrate: “What if it was a girl from a rich family? Would you have cremated her the same way?”

On June 19, this year, a 60-year-old man and his 31-year-old son — arrested and brutally tortured at a police station at Sathankulam in Tamil Nadu — died due to injuries sustained while in custody. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) quoting the forensic report stated that police brutality killed the duo.

The three examples — caste discrimination, brutal rape, and police brutality — are clear cases of human rights violations. Discrimination based on religion, caste, gender, sexual orientation, and so on at the workplace, segregation of students based on caste and disabilities in educational institutions, failure to provide maternity leave, forcing people to become bonded labourers, denial of minimum wage to workers... are a few examples of human rights abuses in many countries. We read news about rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, harsh prison conditions, prolonged pretrial detention, police torture, in India, almost every day. How do educators and students respond to them? Do they feel that it is their moral responsibility to condemn such atrocities and be advocates for peace and justice? They can stand up for their rights and those of others only if they have adequate knowledge of various rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Why Human Rights Education

Educators should be concerned about human dignity and rights and not only instil such values in students, but also educate them to value and appreciate diversity and uphold all rights. Together, they should work towards creating a humane society. How can it be done? Human rights education (HRE) can play a significant role in achieving this goal.

HRE should be incorporated into the curriculum in order to promote peace, democracy and social order. Its main objective will be to help students cherish the values of equality, liberty, human dignity, become aware of their rights, develop empathy, tolerance and respect for the rights of others, respond positively to various violations and to defend human rights. The World Conference on Human Rights held in 1993 declared HRE as “essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.” In 1994, the UN General Assembly declared the UN Decade of Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and urged all member countries to promote and include HRE in their school systems. It can be a part of the value education curriculum and should be learned through experience. Students should be able to apply human rights standards in their practices.

What can students do

Become members of human rights clubs in schools and educate themselves.

Become familiar with all the 30 rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Learn about and be inspired by the work of famous humanitarians.

Read news reports and stories and discuss them.

Write creative pieces to create awareness among people.

Discuss what can be done to highlight human rights issues and stop violations.

Speak up for the rights of victims by expressing solidarity. Write ‘letters to the editor’.

Become advocates for peace, tolerance, and human rights.

Beyond the exams

India is the largest democratic nation in the world with a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural and multi-religious pluralistic society. Unfortunately, certain forces pose a threat to democracy and indulge in unconstitutional activities. As a result, certain sections of people are deprived of their rights and unable to raise their voice against the injustice done to them.

HRE can not only make students aware of their rights, but also help protect the rights of others. It is not a subject to be studied for exams or to acquire theoretical knowledge about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Human rights issues should challenge educators and students and lead them to respond positively to situations of rights violations. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was instrumental in drafting the UDHR, said that human rights should begin “in small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.” It is not necessary for everyone to become an activist, but it is important for everyone to be a defender of human rights.

The author is an academic, teacher educator, and columnist.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 7:48:26 PM |

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