We celebrated our 24th official Human Rights Day last week. We have come a long way since the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 that we commemorate on this day. But there are still many places in the world where citizens are denied basic human rights.
So it was also a day to spare a thought for the Rohinga of Myanmar, the citizens of North Korea, parts of China, Syria, Palestine and many other lesser publicised regions.
Here in South Africa, there are also still many human rights areas that need addressing, like gender-based violence, crimes against children and personal safety as a whole.
So where exactly is the world heading when it comes to human rights? This was the fascinating question recently addressed by William Schabas – a professor at London’s Middlesex University, who is also a world-renowned human rights academic.
He says the world has made some significant progress over the past 50 years. These include progress related to sexual orientation, capital punishment, disability rights and freedom of association.
Schabas reckons considering the precedent, human rights will have a broader meaning for even more people in the next 50 years.
He says one of the areas that needs our urgent attention is economic and social disparities, which he says is feeding extremist movements, which in turn threatens human rights.
Very encouraging and interesting thoughts, like the idea of a borderless world where we are able to come and go as we please. It does open the argument that we are no just citizens of our own regions and countries, but we are in fact citizens of the world.
And therefore the earth belongs to all of us, and as such, we should be able to travel and live where we like, without any social, economic or political restrictions.
It is a very grand ideal for which humanity may still be far too immature and selfish. But we can dream and hope that one day our great grandchildren will live this utopia, with no more need for a Human Rights Day.
Prof Schabas reminded his audience of a Martin Luther-King Jnr quote: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but in tends towards justice.”