Yesterday (21st March) saw my country (South Africa) celebrate Human Rights Day. I think most people were just happy to have mid-week public holiday to save them from work and give them the extra boost to see them through the rest of the week. I think very few gave much thought about human rights. It’s a topic that concerns everyone; we are all born with it, many have to fight for it, some even live without it, some take it for granted, whilst some don’t care much for it – it’s the spectrum of human rights. Yesterday morning as we lay in bed, the topic of South Africa and Africa came up. It’s morbid history that still repeats itself, with different plot twists. I found myself paging through an old high school text-book and came across the section of the U.N and its intentions improving human rights and lives across the world. I then read the 12 points of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” :
- All human beings, regardless of race, colour, sex or religion are born free and have the same rights.
- All people have the right to life and liberty.
- Slavery and the slave trade shall be banned in all their forms.
- No one should suffer torture, or inhumane punishment. No one should be in prison without trial.
- All people are equal before the law and have the right to a fair trial.
- All people have the right to travel freely in their own country. They also have the right to leave their own country and return to it.
- Adult men and women have the right to marry. Men and women are entitled to equal rights in marriage.
- All people have the right to own property.
- All people have the right to freedom of thought and religion and to worship in freedom.
- People have the right to take part in the government of their country.
- All people have the right to work, and to equal pay for equal work.
- Education should be free and compulsory.
…And then I thought how many countries in the world, including my own, are in violation of human rights? So what is human rights and what does it mean to us? It probably does mean different things to different people depending on their situation, but is it not hypocritical for those that we depend on for safety and security to come up with a good set of “rights” and yet most of the world is in direct conflict of these rights. What was the point and purpose for this declaration? The term “human rights” is seeming more like an oxymoronic phrase than a declaration of human freedom and independence. Just something to think about, another cosmic conundrum…