Mahathir

Protecting human rights: Imperative for improving lives in Bangladesh

Human rights

Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

MNA Editorial Desk: Human rights, as a concept, have gained huge importance all over the world in the last few decades. We are hearing a lot about the protection of human rights now-a-days. Many local and multinational institutions have devoted their works to ensure the rights of people to provide them a sense of equality, safety and to rid them of deprivation.

In the context of Bangladesh also, human rights is gaining much attention today. But still, it is being violated every day. Hence, a lot is required to be done to protect human rights in our country.

In simple words, human rights refer to the rights which are believed to belong to every person. According to the United Nations (UN), human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

The United Nations has defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social. It has also established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and to assist states in carrying out their responsibilities.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN general assembly in 1945 and 1948, declares the laws regarding human rights and works as the base of human rights all around the world.

It was gradually expanded to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups to save them from discriminations that had been long existent in many countries and societies.

The UDHR adopted the economic, social and cultural rights as an international covenant and that came into force in 1976. It seeks to promote and protect the rights including that to work in just and favourable conditions; the right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being; the right to education and the enjoyment of benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress.

The civil and political rights deal with such rights as freedom of movement; equality before the law; the right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of association; freedom of participation in public affairs and elections; and protection of minority rights.

Human rights are relevant to all of us, not just those who face repression or mistreatment. They protect us in many areas of our day-to-day life, including our right to a private and family life, as well as expressing our opinions and our right of not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state.

Human rights can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted, for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security. These rights are based on values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence. But human rights are not just abstract concepts rather they are defined and protected by law.

To ensure human rights, people’s basic needs are required to be met with highest importance that means they must have access to food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare. If these basic needs are not fulfilled human rights cannot be ensured. The government is liable to ensure these basic needs for the citizens.

In the context of Bangladesh, people are often deprived of their basic needs. It is mostly evident with the lower class of the society. Though the lives of people have improved a lot in overall in the last one or two decades, still many are deprived of two square meals a day and are also deprived of education and treatment. It must be noted that, a much lower number of people now remains hungry but that is not the case in terms of other basic needs.

The actual literacy of Bangladesh is very low and children do not have adequate access to schools for two reasons — less number of schools against the requirement and the poverty in the lower tier of the society which do not allow the children to avail education.

Similar is the situation with the medical treatment. Healthcare facilities are inadequate in terms of the large number of population we have. Though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has attached high importance to ensuring these basic rights of the people, they are often denied or absent due to corruption and lack of planning.

Other than the rights to fulfil basic needs, there are several other aspects of human rights that need to be safeguarded to ensure human rights in Bangladesh. Citizens have rights to the civil facilities like; utilities, roads and transportation, education system, entertainment zones, recreational centres etc. The government needs to introduce these facilities for the citizens as these are highly important to maintain their daily lives as well as to ensure their mental health.

We are mostly deprived of these facilities in Bangladesh. We do not have proper supply of utilities in spite of paying very high price. We do not have effective education system. We even do not have required numbers of playing fields where children can play. Very few recreation centres are there mostly under private ownership with focus on earning money only.

Our roads and transport facilities are also inadequate. All these are our civil rights and we are deprived of that.

Protection and security of citizens’ lives, properties and assets must be ensured by the nation. It is a crucial part of human rights and needs to be addressed with great magnitude. Our movement should be free without any fear or intimidation.

The government must ensure our safety. But regretfully, we have very low security with increasing crimes in the society. Our lives are threatened everyday and many people are killed, raped or terrorized everyday in our country. The law and order situation is not at all satisfactory. Unfriendly behaviour from the law enforcers and poor legal support are leading to serious violation of human rights in Bangladesh.

People are the most important part of a democracy. Bangladesh, being a democratic country, must listen to their voices. Citizens have rights to participate in the national issues and should be an integral part of the national politics but that is not the situation in Bangladesh. The people’s rights and issues are most ignored here.

The political parties run the activities without considering public issues. The citizens have no participation in any national issues and are completely ignored. The only privilege they enjoy is voting in the polls and that also seems not much required. This is a serious violation of human rights.

The developed countries of the world have been successful in protecting human rights as they successfully ensured fulfilment of the basic needs of their people, ensured their civil rights and enabled prompt legal support for their citizens. But the South Asian countries are lagging behind in this aspect and Bangladesh is one of the poorest in this context.

To improve the lives of the citizens in Bangladesh, human rights should receive primal focus from the government, the people and different bodies working on this issue. Along with the government agencies, many NGOs are actively working in Bangladesh to protect human rights.

But they are not focusing on creating awareness rather they mostly work with violated victims. They often receive foreign or government funds and they need to ensure effective use of that. Here, it is more important that, the people are made aware of their human rights which they are carrying from their birth. Our people still lack knowledge of human rights.

The government is operating different projects on human rights and also opened several support centres though these could penetrate only at district level. The government and NGOs must spread their operation and support at least at Thana level immediately with focus on educating the citizens on human rights.

The law enforcement agencies should be involved in these drives so that a friendly relation can be established between them and the people. Widespread media campaign can help building awareness.

Most importantly, basic needs of the people must be fulfilled. If the basic rights cannot be ensured, we cannot move further with our people. All the citizens of Bangladesh must have proper food, clothing, shelter, education and treatment.

We are working with so many development goals under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and quickly moving towards becoming a middle income country by 2021. If our people remains deprived of these basic things, that achievement will not have much significance. Hence, we need strong and primal focus on protecting the human rights of our fellow countrymen.

The Writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC).

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