The Human Rights Approach

These human rights documents and the rights contained within them will provide the undergirding of the discussion of issues in this text. Each issue in this book will be discussed together with the human right that is being violated through the existence of the problem. Jahan (2005, p. 2) states that “human development and human rights are closely linked as they have a common denominator—human freedom [emphasis original]. They both relate to choices or the lack thereof for all to live their life as they would.” Looking back on the previous chapter about social development, it becomes clear how lack of social development creates situations in which violations of human rights can thrive.

Three main barriers exist that prevent full access to human rights and the fruits of social development. These barriers are poverty, discrimination, and lack of education. In each chapter, we will discuss how these barriers assist in creating the issue and help to perpetuate it. The existence of poverty violates economic human rights—the right to an income adequate to sustain oneself. Poverty inherently prohibits access to the realization of social human rights. The lack of adequate income typically prohibits adequate housing, nutrition, and other necessities. Money confers independence and autonomy. Those living in poverty find their options are limited due to their lack of financial resources. This can create dependence on others or on the state to help them meet the basics needed for life, the basic human rights guaranteed to all humans. They are placed at further risk of violation of other rights through economic exploitation and discrimination due to their lack of financial resources to meet their basic needs.

Discrimination involves grouping people into a category and denying them full access to human rights based on that category. This category may be sex, gender, ethnicity, race, caste, social class, or any other categorization. While discrimination itself is a violation of human rights, these categories are used to deny access to other rights as well, such as access to a job that pays a living wage, adequate medical care, a fair trial, and the right to vote. Lack of access to education is a larger problem than many of us realize: Without an education, the individual is not only locked into poverty but also placed at risk for the issues discussed in this text. This is due not only to their lack of education but also to the fact that school serves as a protective activity to help shield children from exposure to social risks. Also, parental education helps children to be healthier and more prosperous, particularly in the case of mothers.

These three barriers are often intertwined and difficult to separate. People are locked into poverty due to their lack of education, and they do not have access to education due to their poverty. They may be systematically denied education due to discrimination. As you read through the book, notice in each chapter how these issues affect people’s lives and inhibit their access to human rights.

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