Happy 75th, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 6, 2023

Welcome to This Week, Those Books, your rundown on books new and old that resonate with the week’s big news story.

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The Big Story:

It’s a big birthday for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a unique document agreed 75 years ago by countries as diverse as the United States, China and Ethiopia. The Declaration recognises that we are all “born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

  • You can do your bit to mark the big day.Add your photo to one of these filters (here’s mine) and share on your social media with the hashtag #HumanRights75

Join the UN Human Rights Office’s celebration of Human Rights Day.

Click here to read the full text of the UDHR in your language. At 555 languages, it is considered the most translated document in the world.

The Backstory:

  • The Declaration, a milestone document, was born in a post-World War II world, where the death penalty was mostly legal, some sexual preferences were criminalised and women had not yet gained the right to vote in many countries.
  • Its basic principles have served as the foundation for several international treaties, national constitutions and legal frameworks pertaining to civic action and social protections. However, the Declaration’s grand aspirations haven’t always matched grubby reality.
  • It has enabled the rise of human rights advocacy but in some parts of the world, the very idea of human rights is attacked as a Western construct.
    America’s Eleanor Roosevelt (right) and India’s Hansa Mehta were the only women on the UN Commission on Human Rights, which played a significant role in shaping the Human Rights Declaration. UN photo/ Marvin Bolotsky

This Week, Those Books:

  • An erudite and eminently quotable book about literature and human rights.
  • A novel that asks a key question: what is humanity?abortion
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