Intercultural Human Rights in Indian Context and Exploration Seminar at Marian College (Kuttikkanam, Kerala). Students were assigned into groups to explore cultural elements in India they saw as threatening to human rights, which provided for a dynamic discussion.
When prompted to answer what is meant by human rights, the students provided great insight – but the most simple and perhaps obvious answer summed it up succinctly: “the rights of a human”. They are not “given” - we are born with these rights simply because we are ALL human. As one of the Professors shared to open the session, “the gang rape of the female student in New Delhi in 2012 still remains as a nightmare for all of us. In this context is it is then very much appropriate to have a seminar such as this, where we reflect on different dimension of human rights.”
As a student shared in defining culture: “it is something that has been followed over generations, something that is put in place and practiced by society”.
Cultural topics discussed ranged from women’s rights in a mainly patriarchal society (from formal dress/saris, dowry practices, gender based discrimination and violence, everyday home life and the need for increased participation of women in government), caste system (lower caste vulnerability to discrimination even in marriages and exposure to human trafficking situations including sex trafficking as well as domestic servitude) to growing exploitation and trafficking of migrant laborers, including child labor.
In the context of Intercultural human rights – it is important to look at the cultural practices that make people vulnerable and perpetuate injustice as in human trafficking. More importantly we should all feel empowered to affect change. Whether it is early and possibly false marriages that are causing later oppression of women and ultimately trafficking or certain practices and institutions which are making people, including children, vulnerable to trafficking via domestic labor situations or migratory work, we can help change it. Key components of culture include school and family, which are, as Professor Roza Pati noted “foundations for how society is going to look like in the future”. Training for a profession through formal education is one aspect but it is crucial to teach and mold “younger generations with the very best values and foundational principals that make a good society”. As Professor Pati reminded the group, we all “have the right to change” and we also “have the right to advocate for other people’s rights everywhere”.
Visit to St. George’s College Aruvithura (Kottayam, Kerala), thanks to the Department of English. Powerful connection between Literature and Human Rights. As was commented, literature is indeed a powerful tool against injustice and Human Rights violations, and it has been for centuries. That said, Dr. Roza Pati reminded us that in the context of human rights there is always a difference between what laws are written and what culture dictates. If laws are written to allow everyone to go to school but girls are still not allowed to go to school – who [or what] is prohibiting them from doing so?
Culture is a powerful driving force in society: “In order to achieve equality in any culture, we need culture to ineract. We need to understand the culture – and as part of the culture we should try to dig elements we find are repressive and violate the basis of co-existence”.
What behaviors or attitudes in the culture around us may be causing human rights to be violated, regardless of laws written? Laws exist – but are they really protecting people? Enforcement of these laws is of course part of it, but we all play a part in helping to PREVENT injustices and crimes like human trafficking. We are part of culture.
Seminar on Intercultural Human Rights with students and faculty at St. Berchamans College (Changanassery, Kerala). Excellent questions and discussion around culture and values through the lens of Human Rights. Dr. Sunny offered a good starting point “The purpose of a Human Rights education is to develop a value system that cuts across religions, caste, etc.” Dr. Roza Pati noted that it is through the framework of human rights, that we can talk about culture; that we can communicate: “That is where the dialogue comes in. We don’t always have to look at the clash of cultures, of religions, of civilizations. We don’t have to be focusing on the interpretation that one group, certain radicals, will choose to explain culture. We also want to listen to the other group who is also looking at it in a more tolerant way. And that is the way that will bring us to proper understanding.”
Part of our visit in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala State) included a session with the Social Welfare Department. Good discussion on Human Trafficking in India and specifically within the state. A takeaway is that overall; more awareness and internal law enforcement training on laws and procedure is always needed especially in looking for signs of human trafficking - a theme, I would advocate, which seems to be universal.
International Seminar on Human Rights Lawyering at Kerala Law Academy College (& Centre for Advanced Legal Studies and Research) with Prof. (Dr.) Manoj Kumar Sinha (Director, Indian Law Institute, New Delhi) Adv. Nagaraj Narayanan (Advocate, High Court of Kerala) and Dr. Roza Pati (St. Thomas University, Miami, FL). Also had the opportunity to meet with the Academy’s founding Member and Principal: Director Dr. Narayanan Nair.
The seminar offered a great overview on human rights in general with a focus on human trafficking.
As Professor Pati reminded attendees: there are groups on the margins of society that are extremely vulnerable, but any one of us could be victims of trafficking. “Let’s go about creating the conditions in our countr[ies] where people know about trafficking, about modern day slavery, and do something about it. Students can do a lot”.
Adv. Nagraj added perspective discussing Trafficking in Labor – and its prevalence as a form of trafficking in India.
Raising awareness is key