December is upon us and as far as celebrations we are probably thinking of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the end of finals. December is also observed for another, lesser known reason: it is Universal Human Rights Month.
How did the declaration of Universal Human Rights Month come about and what does it mean? The proclamation came about in 1948 shortly after World War II. The United Nations wanted to prevent the atrocities that that happened during the war. The first article of the declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The rest of the document lists what these rights are. It emphasizes how important it is to work toward protecting freedom for all in order to keep peace.
Is there a need to reflect about Human Rights? By all means there is. There have been blatant events that have violated our rights. A few of these are:
- Slavery Africans were brought to the American colonies. They were stripped of their human rights, enslaved and considered to be lesser than their fellow human beings for centuries.
- Child Labor During the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800’s. Children as young as 6 were required to work up to 19 hours a day with little or no pay. They often worked in dangerous conditions.
- Jim Crow Laws in the Southern United States Jim Crow laws discriminated against individuals based on their skin color. African-Americans were stripped of their rights in America until 1964.
- Holocaust Hitler denied humanity to Jews, homosexuals, communists, Slavs and more during the Second World War
Unfortunately there are not just historic instances, injustices continue today.
- Modern Sex Trafficking Currently this practice may involve upward of 27 million people.
Am sure you are aware of other unjust occurrences based on one’s race, religion, sex, nationality, or ethnic origin.
How can we observe Universal Month of Human Rights? We need to work to find common ground with the people around us. All humans are born into the same world we were and despite our differences we must learn to function together. Perhaps we can make an effort to practice the Golden Rule of “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It would also be a gift to mankind to practice kindness all year long, not just during December.