Today, December 10, marks International Human Rights Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and promoting the respect and protection of the human rights of all people, regardless of their race, religion, gender, nationality, or any other status. The day also commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, which is considered the most influential document on human rights in history.
The UDHR was drafted in the aftermath of the Second World War, which had witnessed unprecedented atrocities and violations of human dignity and rights. The UDHR aimed to establish a common standard of human rights for all people and nations and to foster a culture of peace and cooperation among them. The UDHR consists of 30 articles that outline the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights that are inherent to all human beings, such as the right to life, liberty, equality, justice, education, health, work, and participation.
International Human Rights Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and progress made in the field of human rights, as well as to reflect on the challenges and gaps that remain. The day also calls for action and solidarity to uphold and defend the human rights of those who are most vulnerable and marginalized, such as women, children, minorities, refugees, indigenous peoples, and human rights defenders. The theme of this year’s International Human Rights Day is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”, which emphasizes the need to ensure that human rights are at the center of the recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the existing inequalities and discrimination in the world.
In India, the protection and promotion of human rights are enshrined in the Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental rights of the citizens, such as the right to equality, freedom, of expression, religion, and constitutional remedies. The Constitution also provides for the directive principles of state policy, which aim to secure the social, economic, and cultural rights of the people, such as the right to education, health, livelihood, and environment. The Constitution also empowers the Parliament to enact laws to implement the human rights obligations of the country under international treaties and conventions.
To ensure the effective enforcement and realization of human rights in India, the Parliament passed the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993, which established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs). The NHRC and the SHRCs are statutory bodies that have the mandate to inquire into the complaints of human rights violations, to advise the government on human rights policies and measures, to review the existing laws and practices, to conduct research and awareness programs, and to cooperate with the civil society and the international community on human rights issues. The NHRC and the SHRCs deal with a wide range of human rights matters, such as custodial deaths, torture, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, communal violence, child rights, women’s rights, dalit rights, tribal rights, disability rights, migrant rights, HIV/AIDS, and environmental rights.
International Human Rights Day is a reminder of the universal and indivisible nature of human rights, and the responsibility of all stakeholders, including the government, the judiciary, the legislature, the media, the civil society, and the individuals, to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all people. The day also urges us to stand up for our rights and the rights of others and to join the global movement for human rights, justice, and dignity.