Since ages, social inequality and a biased societal structure based on hierarchical domination and diplomatic motives has prevailed in human life. The fact that many have tried to overcome this prejudiced gap or the complex of different power structures known as ‘intersectionality of hierarchy’ has not, however, been able to free the people of instilled social inequalities. These human-made hierarchical separations that discriminate between genders, castes, religions, ethnicity, etc. are maintained by their best dominant forces through imparted various factors.
Atrocities on women and minorities have predominantly triumphed over the weak political and societal structures in the post-independence era. The role of ‘Human Rights’ in maintaining a momentum of humanity has been a significant one. However, the era has witnessed harsh treatment of the minorities and nomads, rapes on women due to social strata differences and caste conflicts on a regular basis, thus imposing a threat on the Human Rights of many individuals.
An introduction to human rights
According to Laski, “Rights are those conditions of social life without which, no man can seek in general, to be himself at his best.” One another view by T.H. Green stated that “Rights are powers necessary for the fulfilment of man’s vocation as a moral being”.
The United Nations Organisation, thus, framed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris on 10 December, 1948 (General Assembly Resolution 217 A), as a common standard of achievements for all people and all nations. It states out for the Fundamental Human Rights to be firmly protected by those in power, at every cost. Moreover, an enabling legislation was enacted by the legislature in 1993, i.e. Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, in which Human Rights are defined as “the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India”.
An interconnection between social inequalities and human rights
The establishment of Human Rights in a historical sense, was due to the cropping up of extreme social inequalities and hierarchical dominations set forth during the war period up to the Second World War. These were to prevent any kind of discrimination against the lives of innocents. However, the relation has now gone vice-versa, given that Human Rights are now violated by the extreme inhumanity cast by the social atrocities imposed by these prejudiced structures, many times leading to extreme gender discrimination, rapes and violence on women and caste conflicts.
Violation of Human Rights and Covenants
The Article 6 of UDHR mentions ‘Right to Life’ as a main component of which the incidents of assault are a blatant violation. Many of these can further be classified under genocide, since it falls under Article 2 of the Genocide Convention and since ‘religion’ is one of the main factors based on which genocides are committed in most of the assault cases in Indian history.
Other Human Rights Covenants that are contradicted by the inhumane facets of the incidents are-
- Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979.
- Convention on the Rights of a Child, 1989.
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Disregarding Treatment or Punishment, 1985.
The caste and gender conundrums
Virginia Woolf stated, “Rights are about men”. Many women all around the world face a sense of bizarreness given that it is the women who face the most number of assaults. Be it home- violence, rapes or general injustice and assaults in the workplace areas, women have said it out loud that the intensity of the problem is too huge. And the fact that many a times, the reason for such cases is a mere social construct of ideologies, caste and gender biases and superstitions is unacceptable, yet strongly prevalent. Justice, if to be mentioned in this context, is the individual and collective right to liberation upheld by the human rights, the right to culture, identity, an individual autonomy, and above all, the very basic right to live a life.
Human Rights, Gender and the Environment by Manisha Priyam, Krishna Menon and Madhulika Banerjee