Anybody with conscience is a human rights defender
Today is 10th December. [Human Rights Day]
66 years ago on this day (Dec 10, 1948), we the peoples of the nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to hold ourselves accountable to the principles of freedom, justice and peace for all.
Dec 10 is also a day of pride for citizens of India: we were not only amongst the first countries to ratify the declaration but we were also one of the 19 countries who drafted it. Hansa Mehata, a well known social activist from Gujarat, was part of the team that drafted this declaration that starts of by asserting that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. In fact, she is credited for amending the language in Article 1 of this declaration from “all men are created equal” to “all human beings are born equal”.
Having said that, the human rights record of our nation, sorry to say, remains appalling. Abuse by police and armed forces including arbitrary arrest and detention, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and death in custody continue as I speak.
We continue to be governed by patriarchal mores and mindsets, as a result of which rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remain serious problems.
Child abuse, bonded labor, forced and early marriages, trafficking of children and adults for prostitution are widespread.
Caste-based discrimination and violence, discrimination against indigenous persons, discrimination and violence based on gender identity, discrimination against persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS remain rampant.
Many choose to look the other way even when they know of gross human rights violations. Many just don’t care enough to find out. But many, like us at VV, are committed to expose it and amplify the voices of those defending our rights.
You can be a human rights defender too. All you have to do is empathize, speak out and stand by those speaking out.
So, support the grit and determination of thousands of us social activists, lawyers, academics, journalists, filmmakers, college students, farmers and workers. Join us in our spirited fight against inhumanity and injustice. Let’s fulfill our commitment to justice, peace and democracy.
We observe the Human Rights Day today, but clearly we need to safeguard and strengthen the principles of human rights on all 365 days of the year, 24 by 7.