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Human Rights Violations Against Minority Groups

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Rights at Stake:

Human Rights Violations against minority groups


Introduction        2

Human Rights        3

Women’s Rights Violations        3

Children’s Rights Violations        4

Causes of human rights violations against minority groups        6

Developing a culture of human rights        7

Conclusion        7

Bibliography        8


‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human rights are violated in a great number of ways. One can easily tell whether one’s society is caring and/or promotes a culture of human rights by observing how the particular society treats and cares for people living with disabilities, children, foreigners, the poor, women, the elderly, sexual minorities, racial minorities and vulnerable groups such as refugees. (Study Guide: 11)

In an interview held in 2002 with Valentine Doyle, Program Officer of Lawson Valentine Foundation, the following question was asked:

What is meant by “non-state actors” as perpetrators of human rights abuses?

Answer: “Often it means corporations. Sweatshops, polluting industries, mass evictions to make room for hydroelectric projects, and even murder and rape occur in commercial enterprises in countries where the government either turns its back or is actively complicit. Often the corporation involved is far richer than the country where it operates, which makes enforcement unfeasible and officials cheap to buy. Or the actor can be an individual or a community, as is the case with domestic violence, a human rights abuse on a very local scale. (International Human Rights Funders Group)

Human Rights

Human rights are the rights that every individual has just for being human. Unfortunately, many minority groups are still subjected to gross violations of these rights. Human rights abuses are not just an individual issue or just a South African issue, but they are a world-wide phenomenon (Study Guide: 11).

"Third generation rights," are rights held by a group. Group rights are often incorrectly used by thinking that they are just individual rights of certain groups such as women, gays, religious minorities, and so forth. It is not that these groups lack rights — they have the same human rights as every other human — but group rights refer to rights of groups as such. For instance, the right to collective self-determination, and the right of a group to use its own language in education and economic and social development are group rights. An example is the right to marriage for all people and not only heterosexual couples.

Women’s Rights Violations

Women are exceptionally vulnerable to certain types of human rights abuses. Many women and young girls experience various forms of sexual abuse. In addition to this, entrenched discrimination against women is widespread in many parts of the world and leads to various forms of political and social oppression. This includes strict dress codes and strict punishments for sexual "transgressions," which impose severe limitations on women's basic rights. In addition, women in some regions like Africa, for example, suffer greater poverty than men and are denied political influence, education, and job training (Matthews, 2000)

During war time, women and girls are often raped by soldiers or forced into prostitution. For a long time, the international community has failed to address the problem of sexual violence during armed conflict (Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict). However, sexual assaults, which often involve sexual mutilation, sexual humiliation, and forced pregnancy, are quite common. Such crimes are motivated in part by the long-held view that women are the "spoils" of war to which soldiers are entitled (Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict).

Trafficking in women is a type of sexual slavery in which women are transported across national borders and marketed for prostitution. These so-called "comfort women" are another example of institutionalized sexual violence against women during wartime. Sexual violence is sometimes viewed as a way to destroy male and community pride or humiliate men who cannot "protect" their women. It is also used to silence women who are politically active (Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict).

Children’s Rights Violations

Children’s rights are those rights found in Section 28 in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa. These rights aim to protect ALL children up to the age 18 years from harm, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Our Constitution states that all people have a right to dignity and this includes our children.

Millions of children across the world have no access to education, work long hours under hazardous conditions and are forced to serve as soldiers in armed conflict. They suffer targeted attacks on their schools and teachers or suffer in institutions or detention centres, where they withstand inhumane conditions and assaults on their dignity. Young and immature, they are often easily exploited. In many cases, they are abused by the very individuals responsible for their care. (Human Rights Watch)

Poverty remains the principal cause of the violation of the Rights of Children because lack of money seriously hinders access to their basic human needs: healthcare, water, food and education.  In the countries which are least affected by poverty, children generally have the chance to enjoy these rights, although many are still victims of violence, abuse or discrimination. Abuse of children is frequent in South Africa. Young girls are neglected and abused even among their own families. Furthermore, children often suffer sexual abuse with the youngest children most at risk.

In general, South Africa has the highest level of rape in the world. Girls are physically and sexually assaulted at school by teachers, classmates, or other outside individuals. Fearing sexual assault, they often choose their safety to the disadvantage of their education.

Furthermore, in some communities, in early marriages, custom requires that the future husband pay a dowry to the family of the young girl he is to marry. This tradition is often a factor in domestic violence towards women because the husband feels like he has purchased his wife and therefore that she belongs to him. (Humanium, Together for Children’s Rights)



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