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20 Facts About Human Rights

The world of human rights can seem vast and complicated. There are so many things to learn about and be aware of. Where do you start? Here are 20 facts that provide a good foundation for further education:

#1: By freeing slaves, allowing freedom of religion, and establishing racial equality, King Cyrus the Great of Persia (600-530 BCE) recognizes a basic concept of human rights.

#2: In 1215 CE, a group of barons force King John to sign the Magna Carta, which establishes certain rights that even the king cannot violate.

#3: From 1945-1949, the Allied powers prosecute Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity. It is the first criminal trial in recorded history to prosecute individuals for their conduct during war.

#4: In 1946, several organizations involving human rights are established, including the Commission of Human Rights, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the International Criminal Court.

#5: In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which establishes “fundamental and inalienable” rights for all people.

#6. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been translated into nearly 400 languages, making it the most translated document in the world.

#7. In 1993, the UN General Assembly establishes the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights. That same year, it adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

#8: In 1993, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk win the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in South Africa and peacefully ending apartheid.

#9: In 1996, tensions between the Hutus (who made up 80% of Rwanda’s population) and Tutsis reach a boiling point. Within 100 days, 800,000 Tutsis are killed. The Rwandan genocide has since become considered one of the worst violations of human rights in modern history.

#10: International Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10th. In South Africa, however, they hold it on March 21 to acknowledge a massacre that took place on that date in 1960. 5,000 people staged a peaceful protest, but the police opened fire and killed 69 people and injured 180.

#11: Violence against women and children remains one of the most pressing human rights issues around the world. In many countries, domestic violence is not a crime.

#12: In 2011, access to the internet is discussed as a basic human right.

#13: In 2012, the UN declares birth control and access to contraception a basic human right.

#14: According to a 2019 report from the International Labor Organization, 152 million children are working in labor. 7 out of 10 work in agriculture, such as cocoa fields in West Africa.

#15: Australia, though often hailed as a hero of human rights, has serious issues described in Human Right Watch’s 2019 report, including mistreatment of asylum seekers, a criminal justice system biased against indigenous groups, and major failings in the youth justice and protection systems.

#16: Recent hotspots for human rights violations include Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, and China.

#17: According to a 2017 report, being in a gay relationship is still a crime in 72 countries. In eight of these countries, it’s punishable by death.

#18: In the United States, transgender people, especially trans women of color, are significantly more likely to be victims of violence.

#19: In a 2017 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, rates of those suffering from chronic food deprivation goes up for the third year in a row, putting the number at 821 million.

#20: In 2018, the United States leaves the UN Human Rights Council, igniting global condemnation and frustration.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.