The Monthly Climb December - International Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10th each year, commemorates the day in which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This declaration provides a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone is entitled to regardless of nationality, race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, or any other status. Because this declaration is not a treaty, it does not create legal obligations for countries. However, it has had a great impact on fundamental values respected by many, allowing for the inspiration of legally binding international agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Although this declaration has led to a lot of positive change in human rights and equality, we are still struggling with fighting many injustices on a daily basis. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and many other acts of discrimination are still a prevalent issue to this day. Hate crimes to these marginalized groups are committed regularly and many times, the government does nothing to help them, in some cases even making things worse. While celebrating Human Rights Day is necessary and deserved, we must also acknowledge that not everyone has achieved a full level of equality and freedom. This month we invite you to read over our newsletter celebrating Human Rights Day while focusing on the injustices some marginalized groups still face to this day and the initiatives that should be taken to create change.
Article 6 of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights states, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
However, in the United States specifically, this statement was not always held up, but we have come a long way with precedence after precedence.
When referring to the Constitution, the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause has been utilized in cases such as Reed v. Reed (1971) and Craig v. Boren (1976) even though this amendment does not specify gender-based protection, but instead equality of all “persons”. An enormous victory in the gender equality movement also came with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1878, allowing women to vote or hold office. Additionally, The Equal Rights Amendment, proposed in 1923, but not ratified until 1972, finally brought about full legal equality for men and women in the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Furthermore, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions that accept federal funding. Aside from these larger advancements in the law for equality among genders, more specified developments have continued to occur in recent years. For example, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 expanded the protections of the Civil Rights Act against unlawful employment practices, “by allowing liability to accrue and extending the definition of an unlawful employment practice with respect to discrimination.”
On September 8th, 2020, one of the most vocal feminists of our time, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice passed away. Then in 2022 the supreme court started discussing the overturning of Roe v. Wade which protected the right to an abortion. On June 24, 2022, they decided to overturn making it a decision for the state on if abortions are legal or not. Abortions are now banned in 14 states and many others are considering banning the procedure with some exceptions.
Another huge sign of gender inequality in the United States is the pay gap. The pay gap has been talked about for many years and some people notice it and some still refuse to admit that it is real. Women are paid about 77 cents less for every dollar that men make. For women of color the gap is the widest. Women lose around 1.6 trillion dollars annually due to the wage gap. This means women don't have the same opportunities and have less money to support themselves and their families.
The effective enactment of policies protecting racial equality is an absolute necessity for any nation which claims to uphold human rights. The U.N Universal Declaration of Human Rights serves as an effective point of reference to hold government’s accountable. Racial equality is explicitly mentioned in articles 2 and 16, but every article makes the implication that every right must be inclusive towards peoples of all races and ethnicities.
In order for a nation to succeed and develop effectively, it must take action to ensure that progress is being made towards attaining equality between citizens of all races and ethnicities. The continuing prevalence of discrimination based on race represents one of the greatest challenges facing the world today and consequently results in many nations not being able to actualize their potential for development. The quality of life for the citizens of a nation tends to be correlated with their government’s attitude and commitment towards racial equality, with countries which dedicate a greater amount of resources towards eliminating inequality demonstrating a higher quality of life.
In a study conducted by U.S News in assessing each nation’s level of racial equality, researchers determined that countries displaying the most favorable statistics on indicators such as HDI ranking and GDP tended to have a higher number of citizens receptive toward policies favorable towards promoting equity. Such indicators are consistent with the understanding that any amount of racial inequality present in a society results in a lower level of economic well-being and development. Aside from robbing individual communities impacted by racial injustice from attaining their economic potential (which continues to be evident in the United States, where white households earn ten times the net income of black households), racial inequity also has broad-reaching impacts on the overall economic prosperity of a nation. For instance, deeply embedded forms of institutional discrimination preventing non-white citizens of the United States from participating in the economy prior to the Civil Rights Era resulted in great losses in potential economic opportunities, all as a result of the American government prioritizing upholding white supremacy over the economic welfare of it’s citizens. Through policies such as the Jim Crow Laws, millions of American citizens were left disenfranchised simply due to the color of their skin and were not granted the same educational and employment opportunities. In a study conducted by Dr. Lisa D. Cook of the University of Michigan, found that the amount of patents African Americans were prevented from gaining due to racial violence and institutional racism between 1870 and 1940 would have been “ roughly equaled the total for a medium-size European country during that time.” Furthermore, Dr. Cook’s study finds that the Jim Crow level practice of discrimination against high-skilled African American workers in the workplace have resulted in a 40% aggregate loss in productivity and output. Overall, the economic cost of the racial wealth gap is estimated to equal around 16 trillion dollars, with the economy losing a trillion dollars a year due to lingering racial inequities. Similar trends are evident worldwide, with France and Brazil being noted by the IMF as economies suffering the impacts of institutional racism.
Apart from the economic benefits of constructing policies around equity, nations should prioritize racial equality in policy to improve the health and well-being of their citizens. The presence of societal racism represents a public health crisis as demonstrated by a lack of proper access and quality to healthcare, which tends to be further exacerbated by the impacts of environmental racism. Stereotyping continues to be prevalent in U.S medicine, with significant proportions of healthcare workers being under false impressions regarding basic medical information (29% of white medical students believed that “Black people’s blood coagulates more quickly than white people’s”). In addition to its impact on socio-economic disparities, racism has been proven to have perceptible impacts on the health outcomes on those subjected to its pressures. As explained by Psychoneuroendocrinology, a prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal, institutional racism was linked to chronic inflammation in African Americans. As the human body perceives racism as a stressor, the stress-induced inflammation caused by repeated exposure to racist experiences has been proven to have a compromising effect on the body’s immune system, thus resulting in less favorable health outcomes for African Americans all across the board.
The Emancipation Proclamation, signed in 1863, supposedly marked the abolition of slavery nationwide two years into a bloody civil war. The measure was reinforced with the reconstruction era 13th amendment, which officially marked the end of coerced labor in the United States. Yet in 2022, four states held referendums on banning slavery as a form of punishment, more than 150 years after its official abolition. Today, 15 state constitutions continue to permit slavery as a form of punishment in prisons, with state governments continuing to benefit off of unpaid prison labor. The legacy of slavery still persists through the practice of mass incarceration, as the nation’s private prison complex continues to profit off the coerced labor of inmates, who are disproportionately composed of minorites as a result of racial profiling by law enforcement. The continued bondage faced by African American inmates is a legacy from the Jim Crow Era policies of vagrancy laws and convict leasing, creating a system where African Americans were disproportionately arrested for minor offenses and were forced to work as unpaid laborers upon imprisonment. These racial disparities in arrests continue to be prevalent today, with African Americans being subject to incarceration five times the rates as whites, often for offenses performed by impunity by white Americans. To provide an example, African Americans are four times as likely to become incarcerated due to simple possession of cannabis, despite the substance being consumed at equal rates with white Americans. Consequently, the abusive policing tactics suffered by communities of color are exploited by the nation’s prisons, who make approximately two billion dollars a year off the backs of the incarcerated who are still effectively in bondage, almost 160 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Within this country, the United States have implemented many laws in order to prevent disability based discrimination. Some of these acts include the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which outlaws discrimination on the basis of disabilities against people with disabilities or those associated; the Fair Housing Act, which prevents housing discrimination, such as enforcing that spaces can be altered to be accessible to all and preventing landlords from discriminating against their tenants; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires public schools to meet the individual needs of disabled people; and more. Unfortunately, ableism is still systematically interwoven into our country to such a degree that there are still so many problems that can’t be fixed so easily.
Even within the 21st century, ableism is so prevalent that it's almost normalized. Statistically speaking, people with disabilities are less likely to get jobs even with laws in place to prevent it from happening. The American industrial prison system feeds into a huge cycle of mental illness instead of helping rehabilitate their inmates. Some estimates of schizophrenia within the homeless go up to 20 percent. These issues are especially prevalent due to the COVID-19 and Mpox pandemics: with disabled people’s lives being put on pause indefinitely whilst abled bodied people are able to ignore the effects of these pandemics and measures put in place to prevent its spread.
Accessibility is an undeniable human right to everyone, regardless of who they are and what they are capable of. There is such a huge variety of disabilities that are all different in their own ways, affecting mental health, social relationships, movement, thinking, vision, etc that all deserve the proper care and attention brought to it (CDC). After all, as people age, nobody is free from ailing conditions and disabilities. Everyone has the capacity to become disabled, and everyone deserves the disability rights that allow them to pursue the same opportunities as everyone else.
Just before midnight on November 19, 2022 a shooter entered the club known as Club Q. Club Q, located in Colorado Springs, is a club widely recognized within the city as being a safe haven for LGBTQ+ identifying members of the community. Anderson Lee Aldrich used one of the two firearms found at the scene to murder five individuals and injure a total of 25 before patrons of the club worked to stop him. Two people of the club attending the dance party that was set to happen that night worked in tandem to put an end to the shooting spree successfully disarming the gunman. These two men have been named as Thomas James and Rich Fierro.
According to CNN (2022), This shooting presents itself to be reminiscent of the Orlando Club shooting in 2016 that killed 49 and injured 53. The timing of the shooting also follows the calendar turning of the National Transgender Day of Remembrance which also points to this attack being targeted. This recent attack further emphasizes the importance of International Human Rights Awareness Day because everyone deserves a place to be safe and have self expression as it is noted to be a human right.
On the topic of drag clubs, the art form has been considered predatory and politicians are complaining about the “sexualization” and “grooming” of children. Protesters have shown up to events that cater to children, with guns, but performers and organizers say that the opposers are the ones that are harming and terrorizing the kids. Many politicians propose banning children and fining parents that allow them to attend these shows.
During a weekend in June, West Palm beach’s “Pride on the Block” event canceled their drag show after a 17-year-old made anti-LGBTQ comments on the internet, threatening to shoot up the event. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel claims that complaints towards drag shows are “fake issues” but rather that “drag queens lift children up when they are having emotional issues.” In other words, the issue does not concern the wellbeing of the children, but rather the views of the art of drag itself.
Human rights revolve around equality and fairness. Throughout history, we have come across various violations of what should be basic human rights. Having a safe environment to grow, not worrying about being harassed or discriminated against should not be something we have to fight for. Walking through the events revolving around LGBTQ+ equality, gender equality, racial equality and disability equality we see how human rights encompass multiple communities. The aftermath of all these injustices further prove why the protection of human rights is so significant to the world.
Although the Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10th 1948, is a huge step towards protecting our human rights, people are still subject to discrimination and even abuse throughout the world. Through this newsletter, we want to spread information and awareness on the struggle of these marginalized groups. To emphasize the fight for their human rights as well as celebrate how far we have come in attaining human rights.