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OP-ED: The end of rights

  • Published at 11:12 pm December 4th, 2020
human rights
Photo: BIGSTOCK

We have responsibilities towards each and every human being in society

The world is to observe International Human Rights Day on December 10. The rights-monitoring organizations will try to remind everybody about the millions of rights violations across the world. The heads of states will renew their resolutions, promising to uphold universal human rights for their peoples. The media will weep over the fact that the world in fact has not advanced in ensuring rights for its inhabitants.

If we have counted the number of unfed, homeless, tortured, violated, diseased, and displaced people across the world, what achievement can we boast of that may shower some rain of solace in our hearts while we strive to ensure rights for humanity?

If you look at the rights scenario, it is a bleak one, and one feels that the cries of upholding human rights should stop now. Let’s not generate any more jargon.

Our United Nations says: “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”

The phrase “right to life” is quite noticeable. 

What does it mean? Does “right to life” mean access to food? Shelter (a house to live)? Clothes? Health care? Education?

I have been hearing this jargon since my childhood. More than five decades later, I am still watching the world body incessantly munching the same jargon well into the second decade of the 21st century.

This leads me to think about the plight of the Rohingya population in Bangladesh. They have been driven out from their own country, and Bangladesh gave them shelter. Bangladesh even created a special area for them to live. The country is moving all Rohingya people to Bhashan Char. The UN has objected to this act of the Bangladesh government. 

Now the question is: What has the UN done for this unfortunate group of people? Anything?  

Think of the phrase “freedom from slavery and torture.”

That means slavery and torture still exist among human societies!

The ILO has just said that more than 40 million people across the world are victims of modern slavery. And more than 150 million children are subject to child labour. That means almost one in 10 children around the world.

Google says: “Human rights are basic rights that belong to all of us simply because we are human. They embody key values in our society such as fairness, dignity, equality, and respect. They are an important means of protection for us all, especially those who may face abuse, neglect, and isolation.”

Kindly notice the words “fairness,” “dignity,” “equality,” and “respect.”

Don’t we feel like laughing at the meanings of these words? Why? Because there’s not a single nation-state in the world right now where the practice of upholding these words exist. A few have tried but failed.

As for our own country of birth -- we do not see anyone trying to ensure fairness, uphold dignity, look for equality, and respect each other. These are forgotten words in our land. 

Officially, we do have a human rights commission, but we don’t know what it does. It doesn’t even talk about people’s or individual’s rights. In the 1990s, we saw many rights activists at the local level who used to talk about human rights and seek solutions from the government, but the lights seem to have gone out on them.

Our own society, right now, is passing through a phase that needs to seriously think about how to teach honesty to the dishonest, simplicity to the greedy, values to the rapists, morality to the corrupt, and laws to the lawless.

You might say these are simple crimes that are being tackled by the law enforcers. The criminals will be punished for sure. On the contrary, what if the law enforcers themselves are mired with crimes? What then? I believe that failing to prevent crimes is the point where you allow encroachments on common people’s rights. The criminals violate our rights.

Most of us don’t even know what our rights are. The information or education on rights is always hidden by those who require the have-nots to serve them, who want us to keep working for them, and help them make unthinkable amounts of money.

The criminals don’t even know that they might be committing crimes through their actions. Many consider paying and receiving bribes to be a normal act of life. They don’t have the education to know that it’s an unfair act enforced on somebody else.

When you keep the people ignorant about their rights, you might be making a grave mistake that may have dire consequences. If we are trying to veil human rights with uncontrolled economic development, we might be creating a rights-less society with no knowledge of basic human values.

We have to remember that as members of a society, as elites, as the rich, as statesmen, and as individuals, we all have responsibilities for each and every human in our society. If we fail to realize it, we might as well think that we don’t require rights for humans. And let’s forget all about it -- just work, eat, have sex, and sleep.

Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller and a communications professional. His other works can be read on ekramkabir.com.

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