Standing Up for Human RightsNisha TumberSWK 322College of Staten IslandWhen we hear the phrase human rights are we certain on what this phrase means? Every individual is entitled to their human rights; however, the value of human rights may differ from person to person. Different people have different ideals, and morals and therefore will hold different rights to different values from one another. Although no two people are the same, a constant is that every human deserves equal treatment, and as a bystander to someone being mistreated it is our job as humans to stand up for someone being unfairly treated.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): Human rights are the rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status (Imbat, 2018). Although there is a clear definition of what human rights are and how they should be distributed, this is not always the case.
Looking back on my life, I can reflect on a time when I observed someone’s human rights being violated. My older brother is a straight male however growing up he constantly got picked on for people thinking he was gay. Regardless if he was, he is a human being who can love whoever he wants and there should be nothing wrong with this. The reason that people believed he was gay is because when he was younger, he was not extremely into sports and boy things. He enjoyed acting, singing, and art. It is a shame that people picked on him for being gay when he was actually not gay. I distinctly remember my brother constantly being upset and it had gotten to the point he was embarrassed to be himself at school and around his peers. Being a young kid during the time my brother was going through a tough time, was difficult for me because it was hard to advocate due to being so young. However, I did not let this stop me and I also feel that this life situation we faced matured and humbled me in a way. At one point my brother and I were attending the same school, this was the first time I saw the bullying first hand. I remember myself as this young girl who would spend all my free time with my brother and went out of my way to reassure him to let anyone get to him and to just be himself. At the time, I wouldn’t have considered this a human rights violation however looking back on it, it clearly was. Although he was not gay, every individual has the freedom of expression. The bullying started when my brother was about 10 years old. He was just about to finish elementary school and he wanted to join an acting group. Naturally, my parents were all for it because they were always supportive of anything we wanted to do. Looking back on this situation I cannot comprehend how wanting to act relates to my brother’s sexuality. Fast forward into middle school and the bullying just got worse. My brother tried out for the school play and got the lead role. He was an extremely talented singer and actor and truly enjoyed every moment of it. Kids would constantly pick on my brother and tease him and tell him that he was girly. The bullying continued all throughout middle school and involving the school did not achieve anything. My brother was open with my parents the entire time the bullying was going on and my parents were always in limbo with the principal who did nothing to stop these kids. He would explain kids will be kids but he did not see how distraught my brother was becoming. My brother was confident he was not gay but one day he explained to my parents that if everyone said he was then maybe he was. My parents reassured him that if he was that is perfectly okay, and if he was not that it was also okay. The effects these bullies had on my brother was devastating to watch. It not only affected my brother but my entire family. The worst part about this situation was that the school would do nothing to stop it. When we attended the same school, I was in the school yard with my brother one day when a group of his peers were picking on him. They would say things like go get on your dancing costume or they would call him a fairy. I was younger than them, however I was infuriated. I started yelling at them and I could not even control my words and my thoughts in this moment. I am generally not an angry person however I felt my brothers’ pain. I yelled at these older boys and told them that if they have nothing nice to say to him then just do not speak to him at all. From that day on, they left him alone. I could not believe that by me simply standing up to them that they stopped. It made me realize that all it took was for someone to help my brother out and be a support in standing up against the bullies. My personal values regardless of him being my brother or not, is that if something someone is doing is not directly harming me in any way, then I will not be involved by it. Everyone has the right to be themselves and say/think/feel how they want to. When it comes to human rights, it should be a universal notion where these rights are equal like they are supposed to be. Time and time again we see a clear violation of human rights. The first article in The Universal Declaration of Human rights states All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. From the very first article we can see how every human should treat each other equally. As far as U.S. policies pertaining to my paper, we can examine the issues of bullying and gay rights. There have been countless occasions where we see hate crimes on the gay community. The battle of whether or not gay marriage should be legalized was ongoing for years and years. In the United States, gay marriage became legalized very recently in 2015. Bullying in the United States is a never-ending cycle it appears. No matter how many school programs are implemented, there are always stories about bullying taking place in schools across the nation. There are differences in anti-bullying laws depending on the state you live in. In New York, the key terms that are considered bullying are harassment, intimidation, taunting, and discrimination. The groups that are listed under New York’s anti-bullying laws and regulations are race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion or religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, and gender or sex. After being familiarized with the components that equate to bullying and The National Declaration of Human Rights, my brothers’ situation that I mentioned above was a clear violation of his human rights. Bullying is one of the most talked about and most popular researched epidemics that young adults are facing across the United States (Donoghue & Raia-Hawrylak, 2016). It is important to be aware of the anti-bullying laws that are different from state to state. According to the New York Anti-Bullying Laws and Policies, no student shall be subjected to harassment or bullying by employees or students on school property or at a school function. For many students, school is a safe space where they can flourish in education, make friends, and confide in their teachers if need be. If a child is being bullied in school, it will affect their ability to focus on learning. Due to being bullied, a child may become anxious, depressed, have low self-esteem and in turn result in low grades. (Edwards & Batlemento,2016) The NASW Code of Ethics is a set of principles that are based around a social workers’ core values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. The Code of Ethics and The Declaration of Human Rights both would agree with the policies that are against discrimination of the gay community and would also side with anti-bullying laws. As up and coming social workers it is our mission to ensure the safety of our clients and to be sure that their human rights are not violated. The IFSW Codes of Ethics and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have many similarities to the gay rights laws and the anti-bullying laws. Where the Codes of Ethics and the Human Rights Declaration mention respect for the person and their community, this is the same goal that the anti-bullying and gay rights laws hold. Both sets of values have the individual’s best interest at heart and are all trying to protect them and their human rights. Article 1 and 2 of The Declaration of Human Rights reiterates the same purposes as the gay rights and anti-bullying laws. The first article states that all human beings should act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 2018). The way that this compares to the anti-bullying laws and gay rights laws is because they are all trying to achieve a similar goal. This said goal is to have each and every human respect one another and respect beliefs and feelings that are different from theirs. As a professional social worker, I would be an advocate for these issues. The way it seems is that there will be no end in sight to bullying in schools. It is my personal opinion that bullying is a learned behavior. The way that children behave and act out in school is unfortunately a result of what their home life is like. There is only so much we can do as social workers to put an end to bullying in schools because we would need to start from inside children’s homes. As a social worker I feel it will be necessary to take more hands-on approaches when it comes to disciplining bullies at school. There must be a zero-tolerance policy for such behaviors otherwise we will see it continue. Although children may not view bullying as human rights violations, they are clear violations of human rights. It is our job to advocate for oppressed groups and help those who cannot help themselves. When it comes to the gay population being discriminated against, it is mainly caused by one thing. The main cause of gay oppression is because there is a difference of beliefs. In many religions being gay is a sin and is extremely frowned upon. In many cultures it is not abnormal to be shunned or disowned from your family because you are gay. As a social worker, we must bridge the disconnect that is held between these beliefs. Although it is not our job to change any one person’s beliefs, it is our job to ensure that nobody will be discriminated against because of a difference of beliefs. There is a need for social justice and social change regarding the gay community. As a social worker I would advocate for more support groups to be implemented to make the community feel safe. It is important to make those who are against this population become more open minded. Those who oppose the gay community do not have to accept it, but they cannot discriminate against them. As a BSSW student/emerging social worker I believe that my values in the past and current, are on the same standard as the values that we see in U.S policies on these topics. I was always raised to be respectful of others regardless of their backgrounds and I still stand by that to this day. My professional motivation going forward in my career is going to be to advocate for oppressed groups and make it my mission to help them.Looking back on past experiences, I felt at the time that I advocated to the best of my ability to help those in need. However, my past human rights actions could have held more specifically to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Code of Ethics. Before I was familiar with the Code of Ethics and the Declaration of Human rights, my advocating was different. I once thought that just standing up for someone is advocation, although it is, this is only the first step. I feel that the best way to advocate is to have our voices heard. The Code of Ethics specifically has standards for how we should act accordingly and how to protect human rights. The best way to advocate is to familiarize yourself with the issue at hand and the group that needs advocating for. It is important to have a thorough understanding of what the exact human rights are regarding the issue, so we can best help people. The guidance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights greatly strengthens my understanding of human rights. Before learning this properly, I felt that human rights were just everyone’s rights to be equal. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is much more in depth than this. Article 16 of the Declaration states Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality, or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. This article specifically stuck out to me because it goes hand in hand with legalizing gay marriage. Both partners involved are happy and are not harming others, therefore it should not be a decision made by the state as to whether they are legally allowed to marry or not. The Declaration of Human Rights specifically outlines the rights that all humans are born with. The Declaration of Human Rights gave me a better understanding of how complex they are. There are no discrepancies between human rights and they do not segregate based on any differences from person to person. Learning the Declaration of Human Rights also made me understand how human rights violations truly happen. Although we have distinct human rights set in place, it is individual people who violate other people’s human rights. Individuals in power positions can violate another individuals’ human rights, and as an oppressed person there is not much for them to do to rectify the situation.My commitment to be an advocate for social justice within the profession of social work is strengthened the more I familiarize myself with the issues that people face on a daily. Such issues may be like the ones mentioned prior, bullying and discrimination against the gay community. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is something we will use as a guide and will constantly refer to in our careers as social workers. In this field of work, we will come in contact with many clients of diverse backgrounds therefore it is imperative to be aware of the rights that everyone is entitled to. We as humans, must be conscious of how we treat and respect others and mustn’t violate any other person’s human rights. On behalf of The Declaration of Human Rights and the Code of Ethics, we have guidelines to follow to ensure that this will not take place. REFERENCESDonoghue, C., & Raia-Hawrylak, A. (2016). Moving beyond the Emphasis on Bullying: A Generalized Approach to Peer Aggression in High School.Children & Schools, 38(1), 30″39. V. H. (2018). Human Rights. In T. Riggs & K. J. Edgar (Eds.), In Context Series. Immigration and Migration: In Context (Vol. 1, pp. 374-380). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.Oliver W. Edwards & Pamela Batlemento (2016). Caregiver Configurations and Bullying Among High School Students. doi: 10.1007/s10826-016-0442-5