December is Universal Human Rights Month, a time to recognize that all human beings have the right to live freely without discrimination and to enjoy life with inherent dignity.
It was 58 years ago this month that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, one of the first major international conventions introduced by the newly created United Nations organization. Drafted shortly after the Holocaust atrocities, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been used as the basis for a number of international intervention efforts where human rights have been abused or denied.
There are still egregious human rights violations being committed around the world every day. Whether in war or in peace, countries continue to deny the most basic of rights to their citizens, despite their expressed support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Convention.
One of the most distressing human rights crises today is the deteriorating situation in Sudan. For nearly four years, innocent civilians in Darfur have been caught in the perils of war and conflict, while those in southern Sudan have been trying to rebuild their lives after a traumatic civil war. Women have been systematically raped by militia and food has regularly been used as a weapon and denied to the internally displaced. In both cases, the Sudanese government has denied its people the right to live freely from harm, torture and abuse.
Unfortunately, Darfur is not the only region of the world where human rights violations are taking place. >From issues such as human trafficking, sexual slavery, forced labor, conscripting child soldiers, and denying women equal rights, a host of other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Burma, China and Uganda have untold stories of abuses that have been continuing to take place.
For instance, in Saudi Arabia, women are still not allowed the freedom of movement without their husband. In China, people are conscripted into labor camps. In Northern Uganda, children are forced to fight as soldiers. For many living in these countries, their peoples’ right to live a full, free life is just a dream.
Universal Human Rights Month raises public awareness to the ongoing need to end these human rights abuses around the world. From the evils of genocide to a denial of freedom and basic rights, we have a moral obligation to fight these abuses whether or not the nation where it occurs has strategic military or economic value.
As an outspoken advocate for greater U.S. involvement in ending the genocide in Darfur and member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, I will continue to be deeply involved in these issues in an effort to prevent people from suffering from human rights abuses. For more information on Universal Human Rights Month and on ways to help stop human rights abuse, feel free to visit the websites for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, located at www.amnesty.org and www.hrw.org respectively.