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Social Justice

Human Rights

  • 22 Dec 2022
  • 13 min read

What are Human Rights?

  • Human rights are rights that we have simply because we exist as human beings.
  • These are universal rights inherent to all of us, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language or any other status.
  • They range from the most fundamental, the right to life to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.
  • World Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10th December.
  • Headquartered in Geneva, with many regional offices, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has lead responsibility in the UN system for the promotion and protection of human rights.

What is the International Bill of Human Rights?

  • Following the second world war (1939-45), a series of declarations and covenants began to articulate universal human rights.
  • In 1948, for the first time, countries agreed on a comprehensive list of inalienable human rights.
  • In December of that year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a milestone that would profoundly influence the development of international human rights law.
    • 30 articles of UDHR provide the principles and building blocks of current and future human rights conventions, treaties and other legal instruments.
  • In December 1966, the UN General Assembly adopted two international treaties that would further shape international human rights:
  • These are often referred to as “the International Covenants”.
  • The UDHR and these two Covenants together are known as the International Bill of Human Rights.

What are the Other Treaties related to Human Rights?

What are the Provisions Related to Human Rights in India?

How is India’s Performance on Related Indices and Reports?

  • Indices:
    • World Press Freedom Index 2022:
      • Published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
      • Rank of India 150 out of 180 countries.
    • Human Freedom Index:
      • Jointly published by Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute.
      • India ranked 119th out of 165 countries in the 2021 report.
    • Index of Economic Freedom:
      • Economic Freedom Index 2021 has been published by the Heritage Foundation.
      • India’s economic freedom score is 53.9, making its economy the 131st freest in the 2022 Index.
      • India is ranked 27th among 39 countries in the Asia–Pacific region.
  • Reports:
    • Human Rights Report on India 2021:
      • Published by the US State Department.
      • The report flagged violations of privacy by government authorities, Pretrial detention is arbitrary and lengthy, Free of Expression and Media are restricted.
    • Freedom in the World 2021 Report:
      • Published by the US based human rights watchdog Freedom House.
      • India’s score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year 2020.
    • Democracy Report 2022:
      • Published by the V-Dem Institute at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg.
      • The level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 is down to 1989 levels.

What are the Emerging Challenges Regarding Human Rights?

  • Violations of Human Rights may be committed by the state knowingly or as a result of the state's negligence.
    • One of the most severe and well-known violations of human rights in recorded history is the Holocaust. Jews, gays, communists, Slavs, and other groups were denied humanity as part of Adolf Hitler's "cleansing the world" agenda.
  • Right to live with dignity:
    • Manual Scavenging is a grave concern. The Indian government has come up with several policies to counter it, but few areas are witnessing cases of manual scavenging till now.
    • The human rights of the Tribals are compromised when they are displaced from the protracted area for the conservation of the animals.
    • The Right to Clean Environment comes under the Right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Hike in pollution due to urbanization and industrialization led to continuous violation of this human right.
  • Human rights of women:
    • Women are considered weak in our society and are often denied basic human rights. They are subjected to violence in society whether it is within four walls of the house or at workplace.
      • In Afghanistan, invasive vaginal examinations are forced on women to test “virginity” every time a girl is arrested on a mortality charge.
  • Rights of prisoners:
    • Violations of the most fundamental human rights of the prisoners, including forced labour, physical abuse/torture, police misuse of power, inhumane treatment, custodial rape, poor food quality, a lack of a water system, and other issues noted by the Supreme Court.
  • Corruption in Governance:
    • Corruption threatens the rule of law, democracy and human rights, undermines good Governance, fairness and social justice, distorts competition, hinders economic development, and endangers the stability of democratic institutions and moral foundations of society.
    • There have been possibilities of misuse of the provisions of the anti-terror law including the targeting of minorities and using it against political opponents had arisen.

Why Human Rights are Important?

  • Human rights protect an individual from being abused or discriminated against because everyone should have the equal opportunity to grow physically and intellectually.
  • Individuals can speak out against societal injustice and evil practices prevalent in society.
  • Human rights guarantee that people's fundamental necessities be addressed.
  • Freedom of speech and expression are promoted by human rights.
  • Religious freedom is made possible by human rights.
  • A uniform norm for government accountability is provided by human rights.

Way Forward

  • Ensure Timely and Effective Service Delivery: Corruption in governance is the major factor behind the human rights violation because it relaxes the timely and effective implementation of the government policy and program. The timely and efficient delivery of services should be guaranteed by appropriate administration and monitoring.
  • Focus on Underdeveloped and Developing Countries: Majority of the human right violation are taking place in underdeveloped and developing nations. So developing and underdeveloped nations should be given proper opportunity to grow and sustain the measures associated with human right violation.
  • In case of India, the NHRC should be substantially redesigned in order to become a more effective watchdog of human rights abuses across the nation. The efficacy of the NHRC will rise if the commission's recommendations are made legally binding. State and non-state entities must cooperate and take lead if the human rights situation in India is to be improved and strengthened.
  • Old laws and provisions should be aligned according to latest demand of the circumstances.
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