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”.