December is Universal Human Rights Month, with several individual observances throughout. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drafted by representatives from various legal and cultural backgrounds and proclaimed by the United Nations on December 10, 1948—75 years ago. Why, then, are we still seeing abominations of human rights around the world in 2023?
According to the UDHR, human rights include “the right to life, liberty, and security of person; freedom from slavery or servitude; freedom from torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to recognition as a person before the law; the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to peaceful assembly and association; the right to take part in the government of one’s country; the right to work and education; and the right to participate in cultural life” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
I believe human rights are inalienable. It’s simply not enough to recognize there are the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Recognizing the problem is an excellent first step, but it often becomes the only step—sometimes people don’t know what to do about it or they are comfortable with what they have and fear speaking out may put them in the category of have-nots.
Did you know that December 2 was the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery? I recently read the book, Girls Like Us, by Rachel Lloyd that talks about modern day sex trafficking and the slavery imposed on girls as young at 10 years old. When you suspect a child has been trafficked, say something. Do not just label the girl a teenage prostitute you think is out to seduce older men to make money. These girls are enslaved; they are not making money. The only people making money in sex trafficking are the traffickers.
December 3 is National Roof over Your Head Day. This is a day to recognize that while you may not live in the house of your dreams, if you have shelter, you have something to be grateful for that not every has. Is gratitude enough? No, in many communities, homelessness is criminalized. Can you donate to a food bank? Serve food to the unhoused? Volunteer to work building homes for Habitat for Humanity or donate money to any number of non-profits whose vision is to end homelessness. It’s not enough to see the problem; we need to act.
December 10-16 is known as Human Rights Week, with Human Rights Day kicking it off on December 10. During this week, think about how you can be response-able, if you choose to be, for the demeaning and controlling treatment women experience around the world, the annihilation that is threatening the Jewish population, the way many Muslims are treated, how people who have paid their debt to society in prison are treated upon their release from incarceration, the way Black people and People of Color are systematically oppressed, the rise in violence against Asians and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community.
December 15 is National Underdog Day, a day set aside to cheer the underdog, usually referring to athletic teams that are likely to lose. However, considering the theme of Human Rights, it can act as a day to remember and cheer for those people who are worse off than you are. What underdog do you know of in your life who could use some help?
December 18 is National Immigrant Day. Consider all the political unrest in South America, much of it caused by the United States, that makes people want to risk their lives to travel, often by foot, through dangerous territory to seek asylum here. How can the country that claims to be the richest, most democratic nation in the world turn its back on those in need? If it means that we all need to have less so others can secure basic human rights, then I’m OK with that.
In 2005, the UN declared December 20 International Human Solidarity Day. It identified solidarity as “one of the fundamental and universal values that should underlie relations between people in the 21st century. It’s a day to:
- “Remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements;
- Raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity;
- Encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals including poverty eradication” (International Human Solidarity Day).
Amid the commercialism of the holiday season this year, if you have any quiet moments, please consider what you are willing to do to help those in need. Remember basic human rights are not enjoyed by everyone. If you can claim to have them, you are among the fortunate. Stand in solidarity with all humans around the globe this holiday season.