Today is Human Rights Day – as declared by the United Nations in 1950. For so long when I heard of human rights I considered what it meant to other parts of the world. As I gain greater awareness of what’s happening locally, I realize we have our own human rights issues that need to be addressed.
Sure, there is no dictator in power, people are not being tortured–as far as I know– in the town square. But people’s rights are being trampled here in this country, every single day. In some ways it’s much more dangerous because it’s subtle or in some cases happening to populations who don’t have a voice.
The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an interesting read, particularly because the US’s policies and practices are violating this agreement even as we strive to hold other countries to it.
Among my discoveries were problems with employment practices, socioeconomic disparities and the penal system.
- (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
We have a lot of work to do when it comes to this section. Women in North Carolina make about 75% of what a man is paid, or less. We also have a nearly-complete lack of policies in place to protect us as we pursue our careers and a family.
- (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
We aren’t meeting this declared Human Right in this state or country. Here in North Carolina one in four families are living in poverty, and thanks to our health coverage gap, hundreds of thousands of women cannot afford health care.
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Since North Carolina still hands out the death penalty, it looks like we’re violating this declared right as well. In 2013, the United States was fifth worldwide in number of executions – behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
Aside from sheer numbers – who we are executing is pretty sobering. According to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, many of North Carolina’s death row inmates also have serious mental illnesses. While punishment is appropriate for their crimes, is death the answer for men and women who might not have had a full appreciation for what they were doing?
I could go on – there are more ways in which we are not honoring the expectations of Human Rights that we place on other countries.The UN’s theme for this year is Human Rights 365 – meaning every day should be recognized as Human Rights Day. A good start would be picking any of the above and solving them here, in our state.