Humanizing Human Rights: The Right to DIGNITY

by Francisco Gomes de Matos, a peace linguist and human rights educator from Recife, Brazil

In my lectures and workshops on Linguistic Rights I usually challenge participants to point out which human right they would consider to be the Right of Rights, the Human Right par excellence. There is an impressive convergence in most replies:

  • The right to life. Second most selected right: The right to liberty.

From now on, I have decided to pose a question with a slightly different focus: “If you were asked to HUMANIZE Human Rights, what human right would you propose as the Humanizing Right par excellence? If YOU were being asked that thought-provoking question, what would you say? To further motivate it in using this activity, here is my answer:

I would say that THE RIGHT TO DIGNITY is the humanizing Human Right par excellence for these reasons:

  • DIGNITY is the foundation underlying HUMAN RIGHTS.
  • In Human Rights documents (international, regional, national) the promotion and protection of Human Rights is emphasized.
  • We HUMANIZE Human Rights when we treat one another with economic dignity,social dignity, political dignity, cultural dignity, linguistic dignity, environmental dignity. We HUMANIZE Human Rights when we support and implement the Right to Justice and Peace.

Note that I am using the verb TO HUMANIZE in a deeper and broader sense than that which is defined in dictionaries. In my interactions with students in the Course Educar para os Direitos Humanos (Educating for Human Rights), sponsored by the Dom Helder Camara Human Rights Commission, Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil.

I introduce that concept-term HUMANIZER and define it this way: A person who is imbued with the values of JUSTICE,PEACE, FRIENDSHIP, COMPASSION, EQUALITY, LIBERTY and who applies such values in everyday (inter)actions.

Another lexical creation of mine: DIGNIFIER, to designate a person who dignifies his or her (inter)actions.

In closing, may I ask you to reflect on ways of HUMANIZING the extraordinary family of HUMAN RIGHTS. Your comments on my piece will be appreciated.

(received Dec. 15, 2010)

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