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Friday, January 07, 2011

Human Rights Certificate Course. Wednesday 5/1/11.

Reading session and discussions
Why Wikipedia?
The collaborative editing process followed by Wikipedia allows frequent verification of facts and approaches an issue from various angles giving an understanding from different contexts. This method of regular updating and rechecking by different people ensures quick correction of errors. Other useful elements of Wikipedia include the Criticism/Reception section for most articles where the topic’s negative and positive criticism is acknowledged and discussed. Furthermore, the nature, quality and process of the editing and writing of the article itself is evaluated to give the reader an idea of the way the article has been written and by whom and what the reader should keep in mind while using the article as a reference.
For more on the process of editing at Wikipedia:
What is a declaration?
A declaration is an acknowledgement. UDHR is not a law but a declaration. International covenant on women’s rights is still not sighed by India and so can’t impose sanctions.
Eleanor Roosevelt mentions the need for the UDHR as a declaration as opposed to a treaty, because treaties as an agreement on an issue, give space for revolt, debate and retaliation and like rules, are eventually broken. For example, Sati became more widespread after it was banned. After Sati was noticed in 1700s it was debated over for 50 years, as the British did not want to interfere in a religious practice. Its root in the Hindu religion was questioned and researched into, leading to the translation of Hindu scriptures. After the British translated the Bhagvad Gita, that was announced as the Holy book of the Hindus as the Bible was to the Christians, they could not find the religious root to back the practice of Sati and thereby banned it, as they could track no religious grounds. Ironically, the ban resulted in a wider spread of Sati. It was first banned in 1829 but after resurgence, it had to be banned again in 1956. There was another revival of the practice in 1981 with another prevention ordinance passed in 1987. (Source: )

The Age of Enlightenment and Immanuel Kant
The Age of enlightenment and the works of European philosophers during this time are vital while tracing the origin of the idea of human rights and the drafting of UDHR. Documents include; Bill of Rights of England, Bill of Rights of United States and Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France.
One of the men to be immediately associated with this age is Immanuel Kant. The division of human knowledge into disciplines like Arts, Commerce, Humanities, Social Sciences etc was an idea propagated by him and is used in Universities today. He also explores and states the purpose of a University and its role in the development of a student.
Practicality and application of Human Rights
Why is Human Rights part of our Holistic classes?
It is mandatory for the Supreme Court to take the responsibility of teaching the citizens human rights. All UGs must essentially teach HR.
“Items once purchased cannot be returned”Such a practice is illegal. There is a law in India that protects the consumer such that compensation can be demanded if a store doesn’t refund your money on return of a purchased item.
Julian Assange and Afzal Guru, whose works involved huge controversies, could not directly be arrested, as their actions do not violate any law. Being arrested for Assange’s contribution to Wikileaks would go against the UDHR and the right to freedom. So instead, Assange and many others are being charged on account of rape, sexual harassment and spam mail with obscene content and in spite of lack of evidence and unfair trials are being held in custody.

Marxism and Labor
One of Marx’s biggest contributions is considered to be his theories on “Labor”. Readers of Marx today are Feminists and Environmentalists. Feminists explore the relevance of labor and its association in the fields of child bearing (woman in labor, labor room etc)
Environmentalists approach Marx’s concept of labor with the question, where did capital come from? Their argument extends to nature being the primary source of capital. 

What is Slavery?
Slavery is an economical concept, not social. It is covered under economics and not sociology, as an economical phenomenon.
Capital does not suggest the richest, but simple small activities like a roadside tea stall also involve dealing with capital. Capital primarily involves ownership not money; Ratan Tata paid ndian Rupee ₹ 1 for acres of land, Infosys in Mysore was given the land for its campus for close to nothing, it is the process of owning the land that gives capital.
The Material that comes from Capital is labored upon to form the final product. This laboring upon which transforms the capital into a product with higher utility value is rewarded with wages. A slave in this process can be located at the end of the laboring process, minus the wage payment; a slave is one who is not paid for his/her labor.
A mother cooks a stew; the raw vegetables are labored upon to produce the stew. She is not paid for this labor. Is mother a slave?
Child labor in India when put into this context cannot be termed as slavery because the children are paid, however minimally.
Further reading:
·      Right to refuse to kill and conscientious objection
Pinto, Anil. Introduction to Human Rights. Jan 5th 2011. Lecture.

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