Need For Training In And Practising Of Human Rights And Human Dignity In A Democratic Set Up

Need for training in and practising of human rights and human dignity in a democratic set up

Throughout history every society has developed systems to ensure social cohesion by codifying the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. It was finally in 1948 that the international community came together to agree on a code of rights that would be binding on all states; this was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Since 1948 other human rights documents have been agreed, including for instance the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990.

Human rights are held by all persons equally, universally and for ever. Human rights are universal, that is, they are the same for all human beings in every country. They are inalienable, indivisible and interdependent, that is, they cannot be taken away – ever; all rights are equally important and they are complementary, for instance the right to participate in government and in free elections depends on freedom of speech.

Since 1948 a huge quantity and variety of work has been – and is being – done in the interests of human rights education. That there are many ways of doing human rights education (HRE) is as it should be because individuals view the world differently, educators work in different situations and different organisations and public bodies have differing concerns; thus, while the principles are the same, the practice may vary. In order to get a picture of the variety of teaching and activities that are being delivered, it is instructive to look at the roles and interests of the various “individuals and organs of society” in order to see how these inform the focus and scope of their interest in HRE.

In 1993 the World Conference on Human Rights declared human rights education as “essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace”. In 1994 the General Assembly of the United Nations declared the UN Decade of Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and urged all UN member states to promote “training dissemination and information aimed at the building of a universal culture of human rights”. As a result, governments have been putting more efforts into promoting HRE, mainly through state education programmes. Because governments have concern for international relations, maintaining law and order and the general functioning of society, they tend to see HRE as a means to promote peace, democracy and social order.

Human rights are important because no individual can survive alone and injustices diminish the quality of life at a personal, local and global level. What we do in Europe has an effect on what happens elsewhere in the world. For example, the clothes we wear may be made by means of child labour in Asia, while the legacies of European colonial history contribute to the political and religious turmoil in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, which send desperate asylum seekers knocking on our doors. Similarly, millions of people in Africa and Asia are being displaced due to the consequences of climate change caused largely by the activities of the industrialised nations. However, it is not just because human rights violations in other parts of the world rebound on us; the duty to care for others is a fundamental morality found across all cultures and religions. Human rights violations happen everywhere, not only in other countries but also at home, which is why HRE is important. Only with full awareness, understanding and respect for human rights can we hope to develop a culture where they are respected rather than violated. The right to human rights education is therefore increasingly recognised as a human right in itself.

HRE is not only a moral right, but also a legal right under international law. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to education and that “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace”.  Furthermore, Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that, “School discipline shall be administered in a manner consistent with the child’s dignity. Education should be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and abilities, the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, responsible life in a free society, understanding, tolerance and equality, the development of respect for the natural environment”.

Human rights and human dignity education in india

The Constitution shapes the country’s concept of human rights. The Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles of the State policy are concrete steps toward the realization of human rights. Whereas basic objectives have been defined in the Preamble, the protection of human freedom and liberties are emphasized in Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The rights of the child have been given the greatest priority. Since rights and duties are inseparable, Fundamental Duties (Article 51) are also imperative. These provisions epitomize the collective will and aspiration of all Indians.

The following provisions in Constitution safeguard human rights:

  • equality before the law (Article 14);
  • nondiscrimination on ground of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth (Article 15);
  • equality of opportunity (Article 16);
  • freedom of speech, expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, acquisition, and disposition of property, practice of any profession, carrying out any occupation, trade, or business (Article 19);
  • prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor (Article 23); prohibition of labor in case of children below 14 years (Article 24);
  • freedom of religion (Article 25);
  • no provision for religious instruction in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds (Article 28);
  • conservation of language, scripts, and culture (Article 29)

Educational Policies and Human Rights  

The reports of various Education Commissions and the statement of educational policy have articulated the importance of the right to education and education in human rights as part of the effort to reform and develop education. They assign special status in the national educational system to women, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, and the handicapped, and emphasize values education. They also define the basic components of the core curriculum, which reflects some important human rights concerns.    

The National Curriculum Framework is provided for by the 1986 National Education Policy. It covers core elements that cut across narrow subject boundaries and is designed to promote values such as India’s common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy, secularism, equality of the sexes, observance of small-family norms, and inculcation of scientific temper, among other things.

Policies and Actions  

Human rights education is significant as an instrument of raising awareness of human rights. Of the world’s school children, about 77% are in primary school, and of these, 68% are girls. As per the Annual Report of UNICEF (1999), 130 million primary-school-age children in the developing world are denied the right to basic and quality education; 70 million are girls (40 million of whom are Indian girls). It is lamentable that in the early 1990s, more than one quarter of the 95 million school children in developing countries did not reach the fifth grade. Most countries failed to achieve universal access to education by year 2000.    

Human rights education is not a mere vision. It will become a way of life. It is necessary if nonformal education is to prepare millions of children to be good world citizens. A framework to support nonformal human rights education has to be developed.


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