Some current human rights concerns

28 May 2013
It is often difficult to manage the tide of news on widespread violation of human rights around the globe.

From Dr. Homi Dhalla, who was recently awarded recognition by the Government of Kazakhstan for his interfaith work, here is a of roll of recent incidents that offers a conspectus of some of the major human rights issues.

1.  Report of Human Rights Watch on Indian children: According to the Annual Global Report of the India Chapter of the Human Rights Watch (March 2013), 40% of Indian children are open to being pushed into sex trafficking or forced into labour, drug abuse and other such crimes.  The New York-based Human Rights Monitor has written a letter asking the European Union (EU) to urge India to ensure that children, women, Dalits (untouchables) and other vulnerable communities are protected.

2.  Female feticide in Maharashtra State: It is a tragedy that even in this day and age; the girl child is eliminated even before birth in India.  India’s general sex ratio was 927 in 1991, 933 in 2001 and 940 in 2011.  According to the 2011 census, about 4, 68,680 cases of female feticide or murder in the womb has taken place in Maharashtra State alone.

3.  Supreme Court of India condemns police brutality: In March 201, the Supreme Court of India took suo moto cognizance of the Punjab police assaulting a woman in Tarn Taran district and Bihar police caning contractual teachers in Patna saying that the government had failed to safeguard people’s right to life and dignity from ‘unwarranted’ police action.  The bench of the Supreme Court stated that “We feel that it is proper for this Court to take cognizance of the gross violations of human rights as well as the constitutional rights of the people”.

4.  Dalits refused entry into Hindu temples: The centuries-old evil practice of not allowing Dalits (untouchables) into temples continues to plague certain villages in India to this day.  An incident took place in Galsana village in Gujarat where 100 Dalit families were denied entry into the village temple by higher caste Hindus.

5.  Irom Chanu Sharmila completes 12 years of fasting: Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila popularly called “the Iron Lady of Manipur” who has been on a hunger strike since 2000 demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) completed 12 years of fasting.  She began a hunger strike after the death of 10 people in an alleged encounter with the Assam Riffles in Imphal valley on November 2, 2000.

6.  Hindus attacked in Bangladesh: In March 2013, Daily Star a Bangladeshi newspaper stated that “We note with a great deal of concern that the recent eruptions of political violence have been marked by some attacks on members of the Hindu community with their houses and temples vandalized…the government must deal with the situation firmly to nip the sinister trend in the bud”.

7.  Iran bans sale of Buddha statues:  Iranian authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in Tehran to stop the promotion of Buddhism.  Iran has also fought against items such as Barbie toys to defuse western influence.  An official for the protection of Iran’s cultural heritage called the Buddha statues symbols of ‘cultural invasion’.  He did not specify how many statues had been seized but stated that the ‘cleansing’ would continue.

8.  Sikh boy called ‘terrorist’: The US justice department has rapped a Georgia school for failing to prevent the harassment of a Sikh student.  The boy was repeatedly targeted with verbal and physical harassment and was asked to go back to his country.

9.  Sikh man brutally beaten in California: An elderly Sikh man was brutally beaten with an iron bar outside a Gurdwara in Fresno, California in May 2013.  The attacker was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.  The incident sent shock waves not only among the Sikh community in the US but also among Hindu Americans and Arab Americans.

10.  Lech Walesa sparks controversy: Lech Walesa, the Polish democracy icon and Noble Peace Prize winner, had sparked outrage across Poland by saying that gays have no right to a prominent role in politics and that as a minority, they need to “adjust to smaller things”.

11.  Anti-Muslim sentiments in UK: Britain’s first-ever minister for faith Sayeeda Warsi stated that “UK is witnessing a rising level of anti-Muslim sentiments” with hate crimes increasing by the day.  According to the latest figures with the Department of Community and Faith, 60% of all religious hate crimes reported to police in Britain are against Muslims—he said that Islamophobia is rising in the UK.  Sikhs have been attacked and abused on the roads as they are mistaken to be Muslims.

12.  In Europe, 2/3rd of gays live in fear: On May 17, the world marked the International Day against Homophobia.  A report from the Hague stated that 2/3rd of Europe’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are still afraid to show their sexuality in public and most feel discriminated against.  The EU report questioned around 93,000 people in 23 member states of EU.  26% of the respondents said they had been physically or verbally assaulted over the past 5 years.

13.  Torture evidence found in Syrian prisons: Human Rights Watch in a report stated that torture devices and other evidence of abuse were found in government prisons when the first Syrian city fell to the rebels.

14.  Asma Jehangir criticized by the Pakistani Urdu press: Asma Jehangir, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, noted lawyer and human rights activist has been criticized by the Pakistani Urdu press in recent months.  She has fought for the independence of the judiciary all her life.  Just because she objected about judiciary’s political role and some controversial decisions does not mean she is undermining the judiciary in any way.  She has said that “My freedom of speech, thought and independence is far more important to me than any office…progressive Pakistanis do not need offices to fight narrow-mindedness”.  It is true that she does not need any particular office because even without one her voice is heard all over the world.  Because of her bold stance over the years, she has ruffled many feathers.


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