For the last 69 years, the U.N. and global community have recognized Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day, the date the Universal Declaration of Rights was formally ratified. The Declaration, which is transcribed in more than 500 languages and dialects, is one of the most accessible documents in the world. It seeks to promote and profess, “the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being -- regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The theme for 2017, “StandUp4HumanRights,” will serve as the lead-in towards a yearlong campaign which will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Declaration. Contrarily, there are many human rights issues before us today.
One major issue is human trafficking. Groups such as the International Labour Organization and End Slavery Now define trafficking as forced, child and bonded labour; sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. The most recent Global Estimates of Modern Slavery Report (2017) estimates that as many as 40 million persons are subjected to trafficking each day. In addition, The Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and Trends, 2012-2016 report (2017) suggests that 150 million children worldwide have fallen victim to various types of exploitation and forced labour. A revival of the infamous Sub-Saharan slave trade in Libya has developed that is witnessing tens of thousands of young migrants being forcibly detained and sold on auction blocks for $400. Notwithstanding, the work of universal emancipation continues.
Many organizations such as the BOJ, Sentencing Project, Brennan Center, and ACLU have compiled data on mass incarceration and criminal justice. There are currently over 2.2 million persons incarcerated in U.S. prisons; 95 percent are non-violent offenders. Nearly 70 percent of inmates are persons of color, and women represent the fastest growing demographic of the prison population, and as a result, more than 2,000 infants will be born behind prison walls this year. The ACLU in the report In for a Penny :The Rise of America’s New Debtors’ Prisons (2010) has detailed the alarming economic cost that has adversely effected U.S. citizens because of excessive fines, penalties, restitution, and other levies that slant towards revenue generation. Retributive justice polices, the War on Drugs and the rise of the prison industrial complex has created a $70 billion a year industry that has saddled millions with criminal records, has been racially disproportionate, has failed to address needed societal interventions like Ban the Box, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and has cost municipalities hundreds of billions of dollars.
On this year, Americans from all sectors of life have lent their voices in order to advance other human rights causes. Women have stood for equal treatment; Moms have demanded action in order to curtail gun violence, from the schoolhouse to the church-house; environmental advocates have stood for protecting the environment and addressing climate change; DACA students have stood for education and immigrant rights; Repairers of the Breach have called for a revival of the 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign; and at a time where events in Chancellorsville, VA. and Murfreesboro, TN. have arisen, the Southern Poverty Law Center continues to document the rise in hate crimes and acts of violence.
There are many reasons why we should StandUp4HumanRights today. We must address these pressing societal calamities, and work towards the great charge of American society, forming a more perfect world and union that is indivisible, and planting atop solid ground what Dr. King called, “the Beloved Community."