United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights
by Sharon Cornet
Twentieth Century Europe HIS 306
Professor: Jennifer Bridges
October 11, 2009
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
It was in 1948 that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created. According to Harold James (2003), this Declaration included articles that must have seemed (they still do) hopelessly utopian aspirations that had little to do with everyday reality in most countries. In fact, at the time, every country was in violation of some aspects of this ambitious program (p. 226). It is this authors opinion that indeed, many of the articles are not only ideals that countries in the past have not honored, but the trend has followed into the present, and will likely continue into the future, at least in some areas of the world. The United States today is certainly not exempt from the many countries that do not follow this Declaration. Although the ideological articles of universal human rights is still an honorable code of honor to attempt living up to, the reality is that humans are not perfect, and therefore their political and social systems must also be imperfect, and more focus and implementation needs to be applied to this ideal in order for full human rights to become a reality around the globe.
In Article 2 of the Declaration it is stated: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status ... (James, p. 227). Despite this, India still engages in the caste system for its citizens, which specifies the social status, and its associated economic status based on birth. Those born in higher-ranking levels of the caste hierarchy enjoy the pleasures of making more money, having more clout and social status. Those born at the bottom rung of the caste system are considered Untouchables and are left with the worst jobs, such as cleaning sewage, hauling dead bodies, trash, and dealing with anything that those of higher caste status would not ever be willing to do. Because of their positions, which is not a choice for them (much like being born into slavery), the Untouchable class are beaten, treated with disrespect, and are considered the scum of society. Untouchables have had to fight against the system in many areas, with only a minority finding freedom from their birth-dependent fate.
Another universal human rights issue, which deals with the problem of bigotry against immigrants, has escalated in the U.S., specifically on the international border with Mexico. Article 17 states: Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property (James, p. 227). This article goes along with the United States Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. To take from the latter, the Fifth Amendment states: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation (http://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am5.html). The taking of private property has been a hotly debated issue for many people in different areas of the U.S. More specifically, on the U.S.-Mexico border, within a 50, 100, and 150 mile radius in the state of Texas, it is HB 1001, plus Chapter 232, and Subchapters B, C, and E of the LGC (Local Government Code) is where this violation against citizens occurs. The use of discriminatory laws that have been (since 1995) taking not only peoples property rights, but also their property value, have been perpetrated by the state against citizens and immigrants alike, and without just compensation because the state has not been claiming imminent domain in these cases (http://www.sunstar-solutions.com/HB2096.htm). Yet, people who have built their homes with their own money and hands, owning their property outright (or still paying the note), are being denied the right to the pursuit of happiness, and the right to continue electricity service if their electric is turned off for (literally) any reason. To have the right to have it turned on they must have a County-issued Certificate of Compliance, which is not legally available after the fact. People (up to 98% Hispanic, and the majority are below the poverty level, although other races and even rich people are also included in these homesteading/suburban areas called colonias) are being forced to live in deplorable conditions. This includes children, the elderly, the sick, handicapped, and those without vehicles or transportation in these rural areas. Many of the families are immigrants, and so it is a case of selective victimization by the State of Texas against the poorest of the poor, in order to make living conditions so bad that they are forced to abandon their properties and leave. Many do not have a choice, and so must stay. This unbelievable human rights violation is finally being considered for the atrocity that it is by some legislators, and the recently passed Senate Bill (SB 2253) is meant to allow the property rights to be grandfathered in so old owners have the right to sell their property with electricity, and new owners have the same rights, but the new bill is permissive, rather than mandatory, so it will remain to be seen if individual counties choose to adhere to basic human rights, or violate them (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/Captions.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=SB2253).
As a last example of abuses, not in alignment with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23 states: Everyone has the right to work without any discrimination, hast he right to equal pay for equal work (James, p. 227). This is but another area where the United States lags behind other countries since women, after all of the hard work in the feminist movement, and other efforts for equality have been accomplished, there is still a glass ceiling for women. Women are not being paid the same amount as men are for the exact same job descriptions and workload. Although the ideological articles of universal human rights is still an honorable code of honor to attempt living up to, the reality is that humans are not perfect, and therefore their political and social systems must also be imperfect, and more focus and implementation needs to be applied to this ideal in order for full human rights to become a reality around the globe. Just as Woodrow Wilsons 14 Points were too idealistic for its time, but eventually found some way into the realities of many countries political laws (and their citizens views), it will take many decades, if not longer, before human rights will become part of everyday life in the U.S., as well as other countries on this great planet of ours.
James, Harold. (2003). Europe Reborn:
History, 1914-2000. Great Britain: Pearson Education
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