All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. ”

—Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Human Rights are universally recognised as the normative foundation on which human life is expected to be nourished.  Academic interventions are necessary to disseminate the significance of Human Rights to various levels.  Keeping this thought in mind, Centre for Public Policy Research and the Department of Political Science, Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam are observed World Human Rights day on 10th December 2008 by organising a talk on ‘Recent Trends in Human Rights’ followed by a quiz on the occasion of Human Rights Day on December 10th at Seminar Hall, Maharaja’s College.

The welcome address was given by the Prof. K P Joseph, HOD, Department of Political Science, Maharaja’s College.He welcomed the students, the resource persons and the public who were present for the talk and emphasised on the importance of human rights in the contemporary world.

This was followed by the presidential address by Prof. K C Abraham,advisory board, CPPR who spoke at length on the concept of human rights and threw some light on the issue of rights of
homosexuals.Principal of Maharaja’s College, Dr. Sreekumar delivered the inaugural address for the occasion. He appreciated the part played by NGOs like CPPR in bringing about change in society and addressing human rights issues.

The talk on ‘Recent trends in Human Rights’  was given by Dr. K C Sunny, HOD, Dept. of Law, University of Kerala. He explained the theoritical foundation of the Human Rights and said that throughout history there was a deprivation of these rights by social and natural forces which resulted in exploitation, oppression and persecution. He also elaborated on the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights( UDHR).  He said tha the basis for claiming human rights is the membership in the family of human beings, which is open to all human beings. Human Rights include civil and political rights, social economic and cultural rights group rights, right to development, right to clean environment, prevention of crimes against humanity, good governance etc.He also explained that the concept of human rights is not simple and nothing can be black or white, there are always shades of grey. For example, he said, how do we justify or condemn practices such as abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. There are contradicting view points on these topics. Thus he introduced the concepts of bioethics and law and hightlighted that ethics is concerned with the supreme good while law is based on what is convenient at a particular time and place. He compared and contrasted the laws regarding abortion and homosexuality in India and United States of America, stressing on the fact that laws related to abortion are similar while laws on homosexuality are different. He concluded saying that the basic question is whether the human rights standards enable different nations to adopt a uniform standards in tackling the problems of bio ethics.

The floor was  then open for debate and discussion in which students clarified many doubts they had on th practical issues that the society and the government face related to human rights and how these can be resolved.

The vote of thanks was given by Mr. Abin Thomas who extended his thanks to Dr. K C Sunny, for his informative talk on the concepts of human rights. He also thanked Maharaja’s College, especially the political science department for taking interest in such issues and collaborating with CPPR.