Human Rights Issue: Discrimination
Human rights are fundamental rights of all human beings, regardless of nationality, race, religion, language, sex, ethnicity, or any other factors. Human rights include the right to liberty and life, freedom of speech and expression, freedom from torture and slavery, the right to education and work, and the right to equality and nondiscrimination. International human rights law imposes the obligations on governments to act in specific ways or to modify certain acts in order to encourage and protect fundamental human rights (“Human rights”, 2013).
Though since the beginning, the United Nations have promoted the right to equality and nondiscrimination, millions of people in the world are still struggling with the situations of discrimination at almost every turn in their daily lives. The historical evidences have shown that discrimination that are based on race, language, sex, or religion, policies of ethnic cleansing, genocides, and policies based on various types of discriminatory ideologies have ended with exile, massive destruction, and deaths (“A special focus on discrimination”, 2013).
The purpose of this research paper is to analyze the right to equality and nondiscrimination and highlight the serious issue of various types of discrimination in contemporary world.
Significance of the Right to Equality and Nondiscrimination
On December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Resolution 217A, which was also known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) represents the UN Charter’s propaganda based on equality and nondiscrimination. Most of its articles are explicitly concerned with equality, such as article 1, which states that all human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity; article 2, which states that everyone is eligible to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the UDHR without any discrimination; and article 7, which states that all are equal towards the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without any discrimination (Weiwei, 2004, p.6).
Nondiscrimination and equality are intersecting and important principles in international human rights law. The principles exist in all the main human rights treaties and give the core theme of some of international human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Yet today, the battle against discrimination continues to be a daily struggle for millions of people around the globe (“What are human rights?”, 2013).
Discrimination as a Serious Issue
In spite of an exceptional development on the international level in enhancing the legal protection of individuals and specific groups against discrimination, various reports from all over the world confirm that discriminatory acts and practices are still present in the world. Discrimination is versatile and exists not only in public or state structures but also in civil society. To a lesser or greater extent, discrimination affects the way in which people are treated in all sectors of society, such as education, politics, employment, medical and social services, the penitentiary system, housing, administration of justice, and law enforcement. Discrimination based on the factors such as gender, race, religion, immigrants, and sexual orientation has significantly affected today’s society. The drastic consequences of various types of discrimination have made it the most important issue compared to any other issues related to human rights.
Gender discrimination is the most commonplace in spite of development in many countries. In most of the regions, women are denied to the right to represent matrimonial estate, the right to work, and travel without the permission of their husbands, as well as the right to equal opportunities at workplace as men. Women are also prone to abusive and violent practices and often suffer double discrimination due to their race or origin, and gender. Often such extreme circumstances force them to migrate or become victims of trafficking, harassment, and violence (“The right to equality and non-discrimination in the Administration of Justice”, 2013, p. 613).
According to the reports of the Department of U.S. Labor, women are paid only 72 cents for every dollar a man earns, and such pay gap is caused by pay discrimination against women even after existence of the Equal Pay Act. Due to pay discrimination, the number of women living in rural poverty has increased by 50 percent since 1975. Though women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce almost half of the world’s food, they earn merely 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than 1 percent of the world’s estate. In some countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, women, unlike men, cannot dress, work, marry, or divorce according to their wish. Several women have been brutally raped in conflicts in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Congo, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. Women from Ukraine, Nigeria, Burma, Thailand, and Moldova are bought, sold, and trafficked to work in forced prostitution. Women in Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco face government-oriented discrimination that considers them unequal before law (“Background on discrimination against women”, 2013).
Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Racial and ethnic discrimination happen on a daily basis, affecting psychologically and physically millions of people around the world. Racial and ethnic hatred often lead to riots, genocide, and violence against particular communities. Racism world-wide is exhibited in every continent. In Europe, extreme racist groups gain more and more acceptability in countries such as Germany, France, and Austria. Apartheid has been practiced in Australia and South Africa. Many African countries have suffered long-term civil wars. In Asia, Chinese students are denied to access higher education in Malaysia. In recent years, antagonism between the Palestinians and the Israelis is reached to an extreme level. According to the World Value Survey, 51. 4 percent of population of Jordan would refuse to have any relationship with people from the other race. The rate of racial practices is 43.5 percent in India (Gye, 2013). According to the reports, 45 percent black children live below the poverty lines comparing to 16 percent of white children in the U.S. African Americans above the age 12 are the most victimized group in America. 41.7 percent of overall population of them is victim of violent crimes (“Facts and statistics”, 2013). The Challenging Racism Project claimed that one out of every five Australians has faced racial verbal abuse, and 11 percent have experienced race-based isolation from social activities or their workplace (“Racism in Australia: some scary statistics”, 2013). Till today, millions of people have lost their lives in civil wars, genocides, and riots based on racial and ethnic discrimination. According to the Cornell study, racial discrimination leads to several psychological problems and disorders like anxiety, depression, and negative moods among the victims (The Situationist Staff, 2009).
In many countries, members of specific religion face discrimination based on their belief or religion. They are restricted to experience their cultural, economic, civil, political, and social rights. In extreme cases, such people are arrested or killed based on their religious affiliation. In the U.S., religion-related issues in the workplace have doubled between 1999 and 2010. According to a study of religious discrimination around the world, Christians are the most discriminated people, experiencing harassment by the society and government in 168 countries. Though Jews compose less than 1 percent of the population, they experience discrimination in 85 countries, which is the third most of any religious group. Almost 50 percent of countries increased their religious discrimination since 2009. A recent study showed that 40 percent of Australians believe that some religious groups, namely Middle Easterners and Muslims, should not be allowed in the country (“11 facts about religious discrimination”, 2013).
Form the Crusades to the Holocaust, religion has remained the major reason behind the horrifically violent acts. Millions of people have been tortured, persecuted, and killed due to judgments made about their religious ideologies. The terrorist attack of 9/11 is the perfect example of violence based on the religious discrimination and ideologies.
Other Forms of Discrimination
Besides major types of discrimination like gender, race, and religions, discrimination against immigrants and discrimination based on sexual orientation have raised many issues and conflicts across the world. In the U.S., during the early twentieth century, Italian and Jew immigrants were subject to extreme racism, prejudice, and in most of the cases, violence. Today people from Latin America are increasingly becoming targets of bias-motivated crimes. They are often blamed for economical and social problems. After the 9/11 incidence, the hate crimes against Arabs in the U.S. have significantly increased (Weiwei, 2004). Moreover, discrimination based on sexual orientation is constantly increasing across the globe. Due to homophobic and biased attitude, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and other sexual minorities suffer discrimination in social, political, and cultural sphere. Almost 33 percent or the U.S. population is against the legal protection for sexual minorities. In countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen, homosexual people are sentenced to capital punishments (Vitelli, 2013).
Such various types of discriminations are constantly oppressing minorities in most the regions of the world. Considering the staggering statistics and facts, one cannot ignore the seriousness and importance of the issue.
Ethical and Moral Justification
According to the Kant’s moral philosophy, the equality and nondiscrimination are the sole principle of human rights. Locke argued that all human beings have the same fundamental right to freedom and self-ownership, regardless of their class, race, religion and other factors. The principle of equality and nondiscrimination is accepted as a minimum standard throughout mainstream Western culture. Discrimination based on any background cannot be justified on the moral basis. Ethically, the human rights like the right to equality and nondiscrimination should be protected. Such fundamental human rights do not need instrumental justification. On the contrary, encouraging policies for nondiscrimination right can lead to more convincing and sustainable development results (Gosepath, 2001).
Human Rights Organizations
There are many world human rights organizations that constantly work for the preservation of equality and nondiscrimination right. Human Rights First is an independent human rights organization founded in 1978 in the U.S., which has done remarkable work in various countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, and Syria to protect equality and nondiscrimination right (“Our program”, 2013). In addition, Minority Rights Group (MRG) is an international non-government organization with an international governing council, which fights for the rights of minorities and against discrimination (“About us”, 2007). Furthermore, Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading private organizations dedicated to protecting and defending fundamental human right to equality and nondiscrimination in the world (“Discrimination, inequality, and poverty—a human rights perspective, 2013).
Funding to Human Rights Organization
Australian government and its bodies like Australian Multicultural Council regularly support and finance human rights organizations that are working against the issue of discrimination in the society. Poverty and discrimination are directly related to each other. Due to the discrimination on economical, social, and political level, minority groups cannot develop, leading to various other issue like poverty, unemployment, increased crime rates, violence etc. In a way, equality and nondiscrimination help the society to develop financially, socially, and culturally. Therefore, Australian government and various other countries’ governments are adopting policies and programs to encourage such organizations (Australian Multicultural Council, 2013).
In conclusion, the right to equality and nondiscrimination is the most fundamental and important human rights of the people. Various types of discriminations cause serious trouble to the stability and peace in the society. Therefore, by realizing the seriousness of the issue and in order to develop peaceful and stable society, programs and policies that promote nondiscrimination and equality should be adopted all over the world.