Human rights and human wrongs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 14, 2012

Human rights and human wrongs

They gave their lives working to clothe us. We covered their mortal remains, which had turned into carbon, with pieces of white cloth and buried them with our tears. Yes, I am talking about the tragic incident that took place in Nishchintopur that will continue to disturb our peace for long. Let not the memory of this tragedy get obliterated, because we seem to have got used to such incidents that are horrible acts of negligence by people.
Violations of human rights are more often than not direct consequences of human wrongs. The recent death of 111 people in a fire in a garment factory is but one incident in thousands of violations of human rights. They defy calculation, and we do not, and perhaps cannot, figure out where to begin and where to end talking about them. They occur every day, everywhere, in multiple ways. A nation that does not honour its labourers or workers cannot progress. Labour is a blessing for mankind. That particular event is the harshest commentary about how badly we treat our work force.
It is deplorable that many garment factories have proved to be death traps for those who work for a living and, as such, cocoons of violations of human rights of those people. Government authorities needs to take urgent and immediate measures to put a halt to all these. The primary and sacred duty and responsibility of the government is to protect and promote the human rights of people.
Government authorities should initiate massive awareness campaigns against extrajudicial punishments in the name of fatwa. Educational institutions should have in their academic curriculum provision for imparting education on human rights and related concerns. Punishment should be given for violation of human rights. The media should regularly publicise messages concerning these. There should be popular and easy access to legal aid and helpline to seek protection from violations against the poor and weak people, like women, widows, orphans, children and the homeless. No mean job or task. But seriousness of purpose and political will can do a great deal.
We need to identify the values that we need to inculcate and also to underline the attitudinal change that is necessary to correct these ills. We dream that one day we will live in a society where the four great ideals of faith in the Almighty Allah, nationalism, democracy and socialism are not only written down on paper but also in our minds and hearts and culture of life. The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh has a clause of great significance: "The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights, freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed..." (Article 11, Part II). There can be no better vision than this for a nation. What is needed is singular commitment. Newer and nobler visions will automatically emerge only when this basic one is achieved.
Bangladesh came into being as the culmination of years-long struggle against gross violations of human rights. Three million people gave their lives, millions of women were raped, and ten million people had to take asylum in India. However, we are still far removed from promoting and protecting the basic and natural human values and human rights of the people who are often denied those.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. This vigilance includes, above all else, the protection of human rights and dignity. More than six decades have passed since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948). Each of the 30 Articles is like a gem and needs to be implemented by the governments of nations. However, the history of the human race has been tarnished by the violations of those articles in all places and all countries.
The key words are "inherent dignity." This inherent or inalienable dignity of man lies at the root of all that we talk about human rights. It is the moral, ethical and spiritual values of human life that counts above all. Because man is created in the image and likeness of God, human rights stand for the respect and promotion of the inherent dignity of the human person. Human rights of people are created and given to man by his Creator and sustainer, the Almighty, in whom the people of Bangladesh believe and trust.
Recently, the world observed the UN declared Human Rights Day. This year the focus was on the human rights of all people -- the poor, the marginalised, women, children, people with disabilities, minorities, youth, and the indigenous peoples. The UN Human Rights Charter forms the basis for a world still to be built on authentic freedom, justice and peace. Human rights issue is as old as humanity itself, just as human wrongs or sins are. They are the two sides of the same coin.
All people have inalienable dignity and glory which are so dear to the Almighty Creator that He feels the pain when people suffer, especially at the hands of others. Indeed, all sins against man committed by man are first of all sins against God. Discrimination, violence, torture are all gross sins against humanity and are enemies of human rights. Let us all internalise the spirit behind all our sacred pledges and documents, and let those who make decisions that affect many sincerely do that which will protect the glory and dignity of humankind.

The writer is Principal, College of Christian Theology Bangladesh.
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