A casual survey of the human rights issues that are highlighted in the website of the Human Rights Watch organization (http://www.hrw.org/), involves human rights violations in many countries, both in the east and west. Though, we have a universally declared human rights charter, its actual practice is eventually an individual decision.
Human Rights: Where to Start?
One good place to start to know about human rights is, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml). I do not want to repeat the declarations in the charter as one can read it themselves. The declaration enshrines all the universal values and rights of all persons in this world. It stands for universal human rights categorically. But why many declarations in the universally declared human rights charter are not practiced in many countries?
Human Rights: A Subjective Issue for Ethics, Politics and Religion?
There many definitions, roles and functions of ethics, politics and religion. One function of ethics as a moral philosophy is for appraising human actions as to whether they are right or wrong. In order to do so, ethics must understand human rights as universally declared.
For an example, in certain social and cultural practices, the female is considered the property of the male members (father, brother) of a family until she gets married which then makes her the property of her husband. For ethics in that particular social and cultural environment, to consider the action of a person who treats a female member of his family as his property, whether right or wrong, is dependent on whether ethics in the environment accepts the declared human rights charter that, "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." So no one is another's property. If ethics in that social and cultural environment does not accept the declared human rights charter, then, females will be treated as properties of males.
Now, if the ethics as practiced by a social and cultural community treats females as the properties of males. Then, it is dependent whether the politicians and governments of a community and nation are going to accept the declared universal declaration in the charter that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Realistically speaking, decision making by politicians are usually dependent on whether their decisions will positively or negatively affect their political powers, positions and future. In other words for politicians generally, ethics and human rights are secondary questions in comparison to the question of the continuity of their political powers, position and future. So, politics and politicians' general decision to accept or reject specific human rights declarations in the charter, is always a politically subjective decision making process. Specific human rights declarations in the charter usually have a 50/50 chance in politics to be practiced even by those who have signed the charter.
Religion is supposed to provide the ultimate guidelines for ethical and moral actions for human beings. All religions in its core teachings enshrine ethical and moral standards. But again, it is not any specific religion, but rather the interpretations of the leaders and followers of a religion that will eventually decide how ethics, morality and human rights are going to be practiced in reality. Thus, the acceptance and practice of the universally declared human rights charter in religion will be dependent on whether religious leaders and followers accept the declarations in the charter as being taught and is a part of their religions. If they do accept, then, females will not be considered as a property of males. If they do not accept, then, females will be considered a property of males. Also, it is dependent on whether religious leaders and followers will prioritize the universally declared human rights charter over the social and culturally accepted ethical and moral standards. In summary, acceptance and practice of the universally declared human rights charter is dependent on the subjective interpretations, perceptions and practices of ethics, politics and religion in their native environments (individual countries).
Human Rights: An Individual Decision
If the acceptance and practice of the universally declared human rights charter is a subjective issue to ethics, politics and religion, then, its practices eventually becomes an individual decision. Individuals will then have to decide whether to practice or not, even when the majority of their fellow human beings disagree with them. It is the collective decisions of individuals who want to practice the universally declared human rights that will assure of its continual promotion among humanity.
So, don't wait for your religious and political leaders to set an example in practicing the universally declared human rights charter. It starts with you and I. The practice of the universally declared human rights charter is eventually an individual decision.