Universal Human Rights

Universal Human Rights Month

While December is Universal Human Rights Month, December 10 marks the 71st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the absence of total peace, this issue will always be crucial.

As a human race, we are supposed to know better. Before you dismiss me as a bleeding-heart liberal, please look in your own heart and tell me, if you can, what you imagine it might be like for someone on the less privileged side of things to tolerate the way things are. Just take a moment to see the groups you so easily put in a box as humans—humans just like you, your mother, your children and your friends. People with ambitions, desires, hopes and dreams. People who have a right to expect they will have a roof over their heads, food to eat and peace in their land, free from terror, abuse and murder.

One of the absolute pleasures of all the traveling I do is that I have many friends all over the world. If I got stranded in an airport, I would likely know someone nearby who could help. In fact, this was put to the test earlier this year when a friend of mine had a friend whose daughter was seriously ill in Adelaide, Australia. She couldn’t afford to just hop on a plane, so my friend phoned me to see if I knew anyone in Adelaide, and I did! My friend went to the hospital, made friends with this woman’s daughter and even brought her to his home to convalesce before sending her on her way. A result of this wonderful gift is that I can no longer watch the news and put people in a generic, stereotypical category. I can’t think of Iranians as horrible people; I know wonderful people there, like my friends Ali and Zarah. My friend, Nassi, has a mother and friends living there. My heart breaks when I hear on the news that protesters are being killed, the Internet is down so people can’t get the word out, and that my friend, Zarah, a physician, can’t get medicine for her patients.

When I hear of protesters being hurt, jailed and even killed in Hong Kong, it scares me because I’ve been in Hong Kong several times.

While I don’t know the migrants at our country’s borders, I certainly know others who immigrated to the U.S. and are contributing members of our society. The atrocities they are escaping, we will never know. Even if they aren’t fleeing for their lives and the lives of their children, they are seeking a better life. Is that wrong? I know there are people who say they need to enter legally, and that is a valid argument until you talk to the people who are waiting to enter legally. Again, I have a good friend, Shruti, who went to college in Boston, graduated with a psychology degree, got a work visa and lived here on that work visa for more than ten years. When her visa expired, she did the legal thing and left the country, hopeful it wouldn’t be long before she got a new visa. Since then, companies have offered her jobs and applied for her visas every year and have been rejected every time. The first time was seven years ago and still no visa.

With Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and believed suicide, there has been a rising awareness of sex trafficking. Where are the human rights in that? Young, impressionable girls are kidnapped, beaten and drugged. Their families are threatened so they succumb to the lifestyle. If they are rescued, they are never the same. Once you have been used like an object, you stop believing in your own worth. I just posted an article about a beautiful young girl who was rescued from that life only to take her own. She’s not just a statistic; she has a name and a family who loved her—Letty Serrano.

Women in Afghanistan can get raped and subsequently stoned to death for no longer being pure. Women are considered property there, owned by their families until they are owned by their husbands.

I was thrilled to learn that India passed a law declaring any husband a rapist who has sex with his underaged wife, as young as 14. Yes, the question remains, why is it still legal to marry her in the first place? However, this small victory is a step in the right direction and more protection is still necessary.

China is suspected of having gross human rights violations in internment camps, which they are calling voluntary labor camps. China has been accused of abusing, torturing and even killing mostly Muslims in the name of national security and combating terrorism. I have friends living there and hope every day they are safe. I’m happy for their sakes that they are not Muslims in China.

My friends in Malaysia tell me they could be killed there for being gay. Imagine living in a place in 2019 where you could lose your life as a legal consequence for your sexual orientation.

Violence from our increasingly militarized police force is on the rise, as recent statistics show one-third of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by police.

The United States still has such disproportionality among blacks who are arrested and incarcerated. A black male who interacts with a police officer has a much greater chance of being shot and killed than a white person in this country. Just last week, three black fathers were murdered by police. One black man was even killed by a police officer in his own apartment.

Mass shootings are sometimes motivated by hate of a particular group—gays, Muslims, Christians, Jews—and no one is safe.

Indigenous groups around the world are in a fight for their homelands from South Africa to Australia to the United States and beyond. The other day in Brazil, two indigenous leaders were gunned down on their way back from advocating for their indigenous rights. It will always be a fight, as governments try to take away more and more pieces of the land promised to them. As was the case with the Dakota Access Pipeline, the police force shot them with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets when they tried to protect that land from an inevitable oil spill.

I am no politician; I cannot make laws to protect people. I am no soldier; I cannot go to battle or engage in rescue missions. I am no religious leader; I cannot preach of God’s love. I am just a human like everyone else, only I was born into a privileged class. I didn’t ask for it, but it’s the reality of my life. I have been fortunate not to suffer the human rights violations others have, although I am a woman and part of the #MeToo movement. I am a privileged one who wants to stand up and say enough! When are people going to realize they are no better than anyone ese? Because you live in privilege, you want to block others from enjoying a mere fraction of the privilege you have simply because of where you were born or who your parents are? Because you have privilege, you believe it is acceptable to put people unlike you in a category, a box with bars and chains, and keep them in that cell so they can’t take anything you believe is your right. You can’t have them eating your food, taking your jobs, dating your women, or influencing your children. All people are asking for is fair treatment, reasonable accommodations and a life without fear. Is that really too much to ask?

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