When the people come together to resist oppression and promote human rights, it’s a human rights movement. There have been many social movements throughout history centered on issues like segregation, racism, gender inequality, and the rights of indigenous peoples. Protests and other forms of activism bring attention to the issue at hand and put pressure on governments and institutions to change. The backlash against these movements is often violent, causing activists immense trauma, physical injuries, and even death. Here are five examples of human rights movements around the world:
Ni Una Menos (Argentina)
Ni Una Menos translates to “not one less,” which means that not another woman should be killed by a man. In Argentina, femicide is a major issue. The #NiUnaMenos movement kicked off in 2015 when a journalist tweeted about the recent murder of a woman at the hands of her boyfriend. The tweet went viral and 200,000 in Buenos Aires and other areas gathered in town squares. The grassroots movement is a “collective cry against gender violence.”
In the years since, activists connected to the movement have expanded to other women’s issues, such as more employment opportunities and the right to abortion. Supporters wore green clothing and bandanas at protests. In 2018, Argentina came close to legalizing abortion but needed just seven more votes. In December 2020, after a 20-hour debate, the National Congress passed a bill legalizing elective abortions up to the 14th. Ni Una Menos continues to fight for women’s rights.
End Sars (Nigeria)
In 1992, Nigeria created the police unit SARS to respond to violent crime, especially armed robbery. They became known for their corruption and violations of human rights. The hashtag #EndSARS first emerged in 2018 to raise awareness of the unit’s abuses. In response, the government restructured SARS, but the violations continued. In 2020, a video of a SARS office shooting a young man went viral and the hashtag resurfaced. More abuses were documented and thousands of people began protesting across the nation. #EndSARS trended globally and international demonstrations were organized around the world.
The Nigeria Police Force came out strong against protesters. During an incident known as the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre, the police opened fire into the crowd. Videos were broadcast on Instagram Live, horrifying the world. It’s unknown how many were killed or injured during this series of protests, but some reports say police killed at least 49 people. Like many movements centered on police brutality and corruption, #EndSars also calls out corruption in the country as a whole. Investigations about the police response are ongoing, but citizens aren’t optimistic. This isn’t the last the world has seen of this human rights movement.
Black Lives Matter (United States)
In 2013, George Zimmerman killed 13-year old Trayvon Martin. The teenager was Black and unarmed. The resulting trial and acquittal earned a lot of attention and in response, activists began the Black Lives Matter organization and hashtag. The movement gained further awareness after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The movement continued to draw attention to police brutality, inspiring other hashtags like #SayHerName. In addition to organizing protests, Black Lives Matter activists educated the public and released “Campaign Zero,” ten policy solutions that aim to end police brutality.
The movement surged again in 2020 after George Floyd’s filmed murder. Huge protests appeared all over the country, earning it a comparison to the Civil Rights Movement. It may even be the largest human rights movement in America’s history. Data shows that the vast majority of protests were peaceful, and when there was violence, it was often counterprotesters or police targeting the Black Lives Matter protesters. The movement has triggered a racial reckoning in the United States, including a push for police budget cuts, the removal of monuments, and structural changes.
Farmer protests (India)
In 2020, the Indian government passed three agricultural laws. While reform is needed, farmers were immediately concerned that the laws would harm them and benefit corporations. They began organizing, leading to the largest protest in Indian history. Tens of thousands came to New Delhi while 250 million gathered around the country in a 24-hour strike. Protests went on for months. Finally, the world began to pay closer attention, taking note of human rights violations.
The protesters are demanding the repeal of the laws. There have been some talks, but protests continue. People are especially concerned with President Modi’s response, which has included violating free speech as well as police brutality. While protests in India have centered on agriculture before, this movement is the most significant.
Democracy movement (Hong Kong)
Until 1997, Britain controlled Hong Kong as a colony. When it was returned to China, Hong Kong maintained a “one country, two systems” structure. They had more freedom thanks to the Basic Law, but citizens of Hong Kong accuse China of violating those freedoms. In 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed a bill that would extradite suspected criminal offenders to mainland China. Many saw that as a violation of Hong Kong’s judicial independence. Protesters hit the streets, leading to the bill’s suspension and eventually a formal withdrawal. Pandora’s Box had been opened, though, and activists began asking for an independent investigation in the police’s brutal response to the protests.
Despite some victories for the democracy movement, Beijing continues to push back. In the summer of 2020, it imposed a national security law that allows Beijing to set up a security force in Hong Kong. This also gives them the ability to influence which judges hear national security cases. In January of 2021, 53 pro-democracy politicians were arrested. The democracy movement presses on.