Human rights mean the basic rights of every human being to be treated fairly and without any discrimination. These are natural rights per se. The UN Charter also endorses the right to freedom of speech, worship and peaceful assembly. A greater emphasis on human rights and their acceptance has been witnessed in the recent decades. However, there is a considerable debate as to how much and where emphasis should be placed. In the West, individual rights are paramount whereas in the East, economic and social rights take precedence over civil and political rights. The concept of human rights is deeply rooted in the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 as well. It is very much similar in content and form to those enunciated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Good governance and human rights are interlinked and they do complement each other. It can be said that sans good governance, human rights cannot be respected and protected equitably. There is a basic requirement to have proper legal framework, institutional mechanism, processes and managerial and administrative capabilities to respond to the needs of the population and ensure fundamental rights. Human rights values, embedded in good governance reforms that include the participation of people in decision-making through civil society, help in bringing legitimacy to the system and creating a sense of ownership. Democratic institutions must make policies from a human rights perspective. Good governance advances these rights by improving delivery of services and by enhancing capability to fulfil its responsibility.

Indiscriminate accountability and transparency ensure accessibility of services to all along with feedback to improve their quality with the passage of time. As regards the violation of human rights, it is more than true that the most vulnerable segments of population are women and children. Some media reports suggest that every third women is subjected to violence and abuse. Laws for women protection must work but in a society where implementation mechanism is too weak and justice is neither free nor speedy, how one can imagine that this would change?

Indeed, the situation is not the same as it was two decades ago; a lot more has happened and now the policymakers and civil society are more vigorous to protect human rights particularly the rights of women and children. But, given the scale of violations in our society, these are not sufficient. Pakistan is a signatory to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. All these recognize human rights and speak for policies to ensure and protect these rights that also include provision of fair and effective judicial or administrative mechanism for the determination of individual rights or the violation thereof.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and International Human Rights Day are celebrated on November 25th and December 10th respectively. The government, civil society and the people in general must show their commitment to protect and ensure human rights with particular emphasis on the rights of women and children. Nicole Kidman in her recent article has rightly expressed that a world where equality and respect and justice are not just ideals, or possible for only a few women and girls, but the norm for all of us. Each of us has a role to play to make this happen.

Play your part!

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