The United Nations defines human rights as “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.” Here in the U.S., we often speak of our own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Human rights include those three – but many more as well.
A basic list of human rights recognized by the UN includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Life and liberty
- Education and work
- Freedom from slavery and torture
- Freedom of opinion and expression
It is the shared responsibility of national, regional, and local governments to guarantee basic human rights are upheld at all times. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is regarded around the world as the foundation of human rights law. However, the Declaration does not hold the force of law in and of itself. Nations agree to abide by it as they see fit.
As a result, there is no viable means of global enforcement of any perceived human rights laws. It is incumbent upon the citizenry to hold government officials accountable at every level. Without accountability demanded from the people, governments are not compelled to protect human rights.
Tens of Millions Affected
Human rights continue to be trampled around the world. The urgency of the situation is demonstrated by the fact that tens of millions of people are negatively impacted by human rights violations. Though statistics very depending on source, we do know that far too many people are impacted by:
- abuse and neglect
- general criminal activity
- forced poverty
- malnutrition and lack of healthcare
- lack of educational opportunity
- trafficking (both labor and sexual)
- press and speech restrictions.
Human trafficking alone is a problem of global proportions. According to Human Rights First:
- Nearly 25 million victims are caught in human trafficking, some for labor and others for sex.
- Some 17% of the total victims are involved in state-sponsored forced labor.
- Women and girls constitute 71% of all human trafficking victims.
- Approximately 75% of human trafficking victims are over the age of 18; 25% are younger than 18.
- Trafficking victims spend an average of 20 months in forced conditions.
It is clear that human rights violations exist on nearly every continent. It is encouraging whenever government leaders take a stand against such violations. However, our leaders cannot solve the problem by themselves. They need the rest of us to get on board. Human rights violations represent a human issue, not a government issue. Thus, we all have a responsibility to put an end to the many atrocities so many are suffering.