ghU: What are Human Rights?

What’s the point of human rights if there is no concrete and established way to make sure they are upheld? By merely saying that we have human rights, we are not ensuring that they are upheld. So, is there a point to simply saying we have them? These were the types of questions members battled during this week’s ghU session. After splitting off into small groups, members read and discussed quotes that expressed various views on human rights. Members seemed to agree that even if human rights discrepancies exist around the world, it is important to continue to verbally acknowledge one’s human rights in order to remind the community and its leaders that these rights exist. Many members also agreed that educating people about their rights is an important step towards changing those areas of the world where unfair practices continue. One student brought up the example of how a woman in Africa might simply accept a beating from her husband as punishment for a mistake she has made simply because this is what she is used to. Members spent a lot of time discussing how cultural and religious differences around the world cause each community to have different beliefs about what constitutes “right” and “wrong.”

Members then began discussing where our belief in human rights stems from. Is it like a faith or religion? Are human rights something we aspire towards? Some members did express the view that many people’s source of human rights comes from their religion and what it preaches. Others said that they view human rights as more of a philosophy and less as a religion.

Members wrapped up the session pondering the difficult question of how today’s generation will explain current human rights’ violations to future generations. Some members believe that our notion of human rights’ violations is relative to what is going on in the world at the time, and what is right now may be deemed wrong later. Members also used this time to reflect on past human rights’ violations and how the course of history might have influenced our current views. Would our current view on the Holocaust be different if Germany had emerged victorious after World War II? Take some time to contemplate where your sense of human rights comes from and how much this sense has been influenced by your culture and history.

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