Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Human Rights Paradigm Shift to End Violence, Especially Against Women and Children

All humans and the societies in which they live are different, yet they all have beauty. When all people are valued equally in thought and deed, all people benefit. The impetus for implementing cultural education to end violence against women and girls is coming from honor killings committed in Western countries. Many cultures still consider killings based upon family honor as legally legimate. Honor killings, as these are known, are the murder of women because they have been raped, had sex outside of marriage, wanted to pursue a higher level of education, or refused an arranged marriage. Honor violence and killing is usually committed by fathers and brothers, and has generally been legally categorized under the umbrella of domestic violence in Western countries.

Women from Arabic and South Asian countries are the predominant victims of this form of gender-based violence. When people from these cultures immigrate to Western countries, they also bring their long-held cultural beliefs with them. Many of these women do not have access to the social services of their host countries. They are also trafficked against their will as "brides" back to their former countries. There is a need to be culturally sensitive towards immigrants, up until the point at which another human being's basic human rights are violated. At this point, the interactive acculturation of people from these societies must become a legal and educational priority in those host countries to which they immigrate.

Violence against women is not only found in the original countries from which immigrants bring their belief in honor killings, but in their host countries, as well. All countries have a high level of violence against women and girls, and boys, including murder. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, the UK has committed to an age-appropriate K-12 education program to teach gender equality in the wake of many honor killings. Police from EU member states have recently met with women's organizations, social groups and educators at Europol at the Hague to strategize, seek solutions and crack down on those committing honor killings and the trafficking of women.* No matter the impetus, the education of all people of all countries of the equality, value and rights of all people, especially women and children, is needed. It should also extend to adults, and become a real presence in the media and conversations of all people, in all countries.

Women, children and other marginalized people are often caught between a rock and a hard place, with very little room or the basic human rights with which they may move beyond to a path of freedom to pursue their lives.

In all societies, including Western, the value of women and children is still obviously less than that of men because their very safety and lives are continuously and disproportionately jeopardized by violence, domestic or otherwise. This is also evidenced by the continued devaluing of traditional "women's jobs" and the wage gaps between men and women found in all societies. During the current US recession, many people in higher paying jobs are unemployed, and most of those are men. Yet those workers in lower paid, necessary service industries have retained their jobs, and most of them are women. Obviously society cannot exist without these jobs. So, now, we see lower-paid women supporting their families on low wages that are often not high enough to support themselves and their families. Now, the economic impact of this wage gap is finally being felt by large numbers of men, although it has long been felt by women and children for centuries, in poverty.

What all members of our society are living and grappling with right now is not just an economic, political or legal phenomenon. It is the direct result of a social phenomenon based upon cultural attitudes of the lower value of women and children, whether or not they are as extreme as those in societies that legitimize honor killings. Economic, political, health care, educational, and legal systems don't define a society's cultural and religious beliefs; a society's cultural and religious beliefs defines its economic, political, health care, educational, and legal systems. What is valued is priced high, has high political power, better health care and education, and is well-legislated; what is not valued is priced low, has little political power, health care, and education, and is inadequately legislated.

Economic, political, health care, legal, and educational reform must take place to ensure the equal value of all people, including women and children, as equal members of human society. Legal reform must use a zero-tolerance approach to the marginalization of and violence against any human, especially women and children, in the laws and courts of all countries. Economic reform must also highly value those jobs that perform direct service to individual members of society and society in general, even though the results of that service are not directly and rapidly felt in the economy. This must include such jobs as home health aides and teachers. Political power must be equal for all, and seen and felt in political representation, rather than the marginalization currently found. Educational reform must include teaching all people, and must teach the value and rights of all, to all. This educational reform must also include mediation and conflict resolution training, so all members of humanity can learn more effective ways to solve any problem, rather than resort to violence. Health care reform must grant all people a high basic level of health care, especially women, whose ability to bear and birth healthy children is necessary for the very existence of the human species.

Research has shown it takes three generations to make such major changes in a society. The very lives of billions of women and children are at risk, as well as the basic well-being and rights of all members of humanity, so the current generation must quickly implement these changes now. When all people are highly valued members of humanity, the myriad benefits of this reform will create a win-win situation. This will lessen the need for violence to demand basic human rights and social services. People will abhor the use of violence by one group of people against another, which will decrease violence, war and genocide. When people realize all humans are of value and utilize mediation and conflict resolution to resolve differences, we will see increased political and economic stability because we will work together to find win-win solutions, rather than compete for resources and power. When all governments adjust their legal, political, economic, health care, and educational systems to honor in thought and deed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they will respect the value and equality of people, while at the same time, retain what is unique and beautiful within all of their independent cultures. Empowerment creates positive change through cooperation, rather than the will to compete, which creates violence and war. This is a win-win solution to a win-lose problem. When all people are valued equally in thought and deed, all people benefit. All we have to do is step into the light of human rights.


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