March PrinciplesOn March 8, 2023, the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) with UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched a new set of expert jurists’ principles called the 8 March Principles to guide the implementation of international human rights law.

Upholding International Human Rights Law

International human rights law enacts commitment from states to respect, protect and fulfill basic human rights. When states become parties to international human rights treaties, the countries agree to not interfere with the “enjoyment of human rights” and “to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses” while “[taking] positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that the United Nations General Assembly adopted on December 10, 1948, first codified international human rights law. Today, the UDHR is widely recognized as the fundamental global standard for human rights. It establishes civil, social, cultural, political and economic rights that every human must receive and that all individuals and societies have a duty to uphold.

The UDHR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) together form the International Bill of Human Rights. Adopted in 1966, the ICCPR and ICESCR strengthened international human rights law by further outlining the rights that every individual is entitled to.

According to OHCHR, states must adopt and implement international human rights law at both the national and international levels to ensure effectiveness. Alongside international treaties, guidelines and principles, most states adopt national constitutions and other laws, which sometimes reflect regionally-specific concerns, aimed at protecting basic human rights.

The 8 March Principles

Introduced on International Women’s Day 2023, the 8 March Principles address overcriminalization in matters pertaining to sexual activity, gender identity and expression, HIV, drug use, homelessness and poverty. The principles apply international human rights law to correct the injustices of criminal laws that allow governments to prosecute individuals and groups on such bases.

The principles are the outcome of a 2018 workshop that UNAIDS, OHCHR and ICJ held to discuss the harmful human rights impact of criminal laws. The meeting clarified the need for a set of jurists’ principles that would guide courts, legislatures, advocates and prosecutors in addressing the detrimental human rights impact that criminal laws can have. Finalized in 2022, the principles took more than five years to develop.

Despite their name, the 8 March Principles include 21 principles divided into three categories: general part one, general part two and special part three. The first two categories apply general principles of criminal law and international human rights law “to proscribe certain conduct in a non-discriminatory way, respecting the rule of law.” Special part three applies these principles to specifically address the criminalization of conduct related to sex and sex work, drug use and possession, HIV, homelessness and poverty.

Implementation and Progress

According to ICJ’s policy director Ian Seiderman, “Criminal law is among the harshest of tools” that states can use “to exert control over individuals,”  and therefore, should be “a measure of last resort.” Yet, across the world, an increasing “trend toward overcriminalization” is notable.

Currently, for instance, more than 130 countries criminalize HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission, according to UNAIDS. The 8 March Principles aim to end discrimination and denial of basic human rights on such bases.

While many states are rapidly implementing the principles, those that are not parties to international human rights treaties have yet to adopt them. The constant push to implement the 8 March Principles at both the national and international levels is integral to global progress. The principles will ensure that no individual or group experiences discrimination regarding these matters and will uphold the basic rights and protections of every human being.

Brianna Green
Photo: Flickr

examples of human rights violations
A human rights violation is the disallowance of the freedom of thought and movement to which all humans legally have a right. While individuals can violate these rights, the leadership or government of civilization most often belittles marginalized persons. This, in turn, places these people in the cycle of poverty and oppression. Individuals who approach life with the attitude that not all human lives are of equal value then perpetuate this cycle. This article will explore examples of human rights violations, and what people can do about this phenomenon.

A Brief History

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emerged in 1948. Of the 56 members of the United Nations at that time, eight of them did not vote in favor of equal human rights. Since then, international human rights have made monumental progress. This does not mean, however, that some do not violate these rights every single day.

The development of human rights advocacy is not a linear process; the last two decades have shown that human rights advancements have remained stagnant or declined in some parts of the world. Socially disadvantaged groups of society are especially susceptible to discrimination. This includes women, children, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, refugees, indigenous peoples and people living in poverty.


The ramifications of human rights violations disproportionately affect those living in developing nations due to compounding factors and difficulties. The marginalization of groups based on gender identity and sexual orientation has become a prevalent issue of the 21st century. Although there are exceptionally progressive parts of the world that have made advances toward the inclusion of the LGBTQIAPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual/polyamorous, kink) community, stigmatization remains a dilemma that lacks a clear resolution. Other stigmatized cases include persons living with HIV/AIDS and victims of rape or other forms of gender-based violence.

Abuse of the Death Penalty

There are countless examples of human rights violations. One example that is especially heartbreaking is the Islamic Republic’s execution of children. The United Nations special investigator of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehmen, stated in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2019 that the use of the death penalty continues to be at the top of global charts. This is despite significant progress in the two years prior.

Iran has a long way to go. This is considering that religious and ethnic minorities still face high levels of discrimination. Rehmen described the recent maltreatment of human rights activists: “[they] have been intimidated, harassed, arrested and detained.” Rehmen goes on to inform the assembly that between the months of September 2018 and July 2019, eight well-respected human rights defense attorneys were arrested and sentenced to an extended time in prison.

New Wave of Human Rights Violations

Those living in the least developed nations experience some of the worst human rights violations. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986 to address this issue specifically. The declaration is radical in the sense that it acknowledges development as a right for all humans. This is something that people clearly do not enforce, although it is a legal right. This provides an understanding that development is a crucial component in reaching equality and protecting human rights.

Prisoners of war and torture victims are also examples of human rights violations. The War on Terror sparked a new influx of human rights abuse acts that has continued over the last two decades and supported the destabilization of international human rights. In order to recover this lost sense of humanity, a common understanding of the rights of human beings is essential.

The western mindset, which takes these rights and freedoms for granted, contributes to this issue as a whole. The question is how can leaders with limited resources enforce the protection of the people’s rights?

The Solutions

Achieving a sustainable, practical and effective method of protecting human rights around the globe that also allows local values and culture to remain intact is a difficult ambition. Humans must recognize the beauty of individual differences and attempt to understand each other before a change can happen. Starting with the smaller steps, like understanding victims of rape, violence and discrimination instead of perpetuating a victim-blaming culture, might be more influential than viewing the situation through such an expansive lens. Only then will these examples of human rights violations turn into examples of human kindness.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Global Illiteracy
The ability to read and write is one of the few skills with the power to completely change a person’s life. Literacy is vital to education and employment, as well as being incredibly beneficial in everyday life. Global illiteracy is extensive. As of 2018, 750 million people were illiterate, two-thirds of whom were women. 

In 2015, the United Nations set 17 goals for sustainable development, one of which included the aim to “ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030. Though this is an admirable goal, current progress suggests that global illiteracy will remain a substantial problem in 2030 and beyond, due to challenges such as poverty and a lack of trained teachers in some areas. While eliminating global illiteracy by the 2030 deadline seems out of reach, companies and organizations around the world are taking steps toward improving literacy rates, often with the help of technological innovations.

  3 Organizations Fighting Global Illiteracy

  1. The Partnership-Afghanistan and Canada (PAC), World Vision and the University of British Columbia have collaborated to create a phone-based program aimed at improving literacy rates among rural women in Afghanistan. Women in remote areas who lack local educational resources learn from daily pre-recorded cell phone calls, which teach them how to read and write in Dari, a Persian dialect widely spoken in Afghanistan.  The lessons require only paper, a writing utensil and cell phone service, which are widely available throughout the country.

  2. The World Literacy Foundation operates many literacy-boosting programs, one of which is its SunBooks project. The project provides solar-powered devices through which students can access digital content and e-books while offline. The SunBooks initiative, intended to boost literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa, helps young people overcome barriers to literacy such as limited access to books, a lack of electricity and limited internet access. Only 35 percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, so traditional e-books are not a viable solution to a lack of books. SunBooks’ content is available in local languages and in English.

  3. A collaboration between Pearson Education’s Project Literacy Campaign, the World Bank and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development has resulted in a project called EVOKE: Leaders for Literacy. EVOKE is a series of lessons on problem-solving, leadership and the importance of literacy, styled as a video game in which the student plays a superhero. EVOKE aims to empower young people to be literacy advocates in their own communities, and more than 100,000 people have participated in the program.  The project has shown promise in getting young people excited about reading and writing.

People generally understand literacy as a necessary part of education and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established it a human right in 1948. Yet still, hundreds of thousands of people cannot read or write. Literacy rates are improving, but not quickly enough to meet U.N. targets. These organizations are making valuable contributions toward fighting global illiteracy so that every person can be empowered.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay