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Human Rights Day

Written March 21, 2012

Happy Human Rights Day - if you happen to live in South Africa( We would do well to institute our own Human Rights Day and Human Rights Commission in the good ole USA. (Yes, in fact, the U.S. has a lot to learn from other, supposedly less developed countries). The South African constitution provides for the establishment of the Human Rights Commission. The aim of the Commission is to promote respect for human rights and the protection, development and attainment of human rights and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights. It was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police.

We don't use human rights frameworks as much in the U.S. as social justice activists do in many other countries, notably South Africa and many Latin American countries. Again, we have much to learn from and would do well to emulate our activist sisters and brothers around the world. I have been thinking about the intersection of human rights - and violation of rights and their consequences - in my mourning for Trayvon Martin and after reading a friend's Facebook post about issues she sees as politically less important, like abortion and marriage rights. I've never believed in a hierarchy of oppression. Who can say in an absolute way which human rights are more paramount? The right to life, liberty and security of person is as important to me - and in its absence can have as dire consequences - as the right to decide whether, when and with whom to have sex, become pregnant and bear a child as the right to decide with whom we partner and make family. Around the world, people die and are injured when any of these rights are denied.

The racist murder of Trayvon Martin (and countless other people of color) is tragic, wrong and preventable - as tragic, wrong and preventable as a Nicaraguan woman's death from unsafe abortion and a Ugandan gay couple's death from a homophobic hate crime. And all could have been prevented were their basic human rights respected and upheld.

I propose that we declare 26 February, 2012 U.S. Human Rights Day, in memory of Trayvon.

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