In the last chapter I took a look at the United Nations Bill of Rights with regard to our legal entitlements under the charter. As with all the rights in the bill there is a great deal of variation between nations, and also internally within cultures who settle in new countries.
In this chapter I am going to cover the personal freedoms and rights that are included in the 30 elements of the bill. Many of these freedoms we take for granted and there are some of us who also exploit them. They all come with some form of obligation from us to ensure that we are worthy of these rights.
Chapter Ten – Rights and our Personal Freedoms.
Everyone is entitled to protection from interference in their privacy, family, home or correspondence or from attacks on honour and reputation.
Good luck with this one in the day and age of invasive press reporting and social media. On a governmental level this one is a very grey area. Your emails and telephone calls are not as private as you imagine, and that is without you telling all and sundry your personal business via Facebook and blogging.
As someone who has shared my personal memories from 1962 year by year, I have to be very careful that I remember that there are certain things off limits. Other family members being one of those. They have a right to privacy. You only have to browse through your Facebook timeline to find that some people have forgotten that everything that they share is reaching a much wider audience than their friends. Of course those we interact with frequently with are also friends, but there is still a need for caution.
Some of those friends may not be a middle-aged author from Idaho with three cats and a love of shrimp gumbo. And after months of lovely two way conversations and personal DMs back and forth, and they suddenly ask for help with a vet’s bill for Fluffy, do you wonder if perhaps you are talking to a slightly different character than you supposed?
There are stories every week of people being scammed out of substantial amounts of money having been groomed for months. It would seem that the favourite persona adopted by these shysters is of the top US Army generals who have public profiles! They prey on the lonely and the vulnerable and are the lowest of the low.
Of course genuine people populate all the social media sites, but if they are real people they will have left a substantial footprint trail that you can follow to find out more about them. Under no circumstances give money to anyone who you have met on any platform without doing your homework.
Trolls and the like.
There are people who are bullies and now see social media as their opportunity to continue that practice from behind the safety of their computer screen. It is a desire for recognition for their wit, sarcasm and power and they thrive on the responses they receive. Some trolls have literally hounded people to their deaths, particularly amongst young people. There are some sobering statistics in this report and deeply concerning that so many young people are affected by cyberbullying to this extent. 4,400 young lives a year is a very high price to pay and whilst not all related to cyber bullying there is an element of this in every case. Young people can be very callous at times and really do not consider the impact their words can have on others. https://nobullying.com/six-unforgettable-cyber-bullying-cases/
Convictions for crimes under a law used to prosecute internet “trolls” have increased ten-fold in a decade with five a day, official figures reveal.
Last year in the UK, 1,209 people were found guilty of offences under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 – equivalent to three every day – compared to 143 in 2004.
The MoJ figures also revealed a similar rise in the number of convictions under the Malicious Communications Act, which states that it is an offence to send a threatening, offensive or indecent letter, electronic communication or article with the intent to cause distress or anxiety.
Last year, 694 individuals – the equivalent of two a day – were found guilty of offences under this Act. This is the highest number for at least a decade and more than 10 times higher than the 64 convictions recorded in 2004.
Insurance companies in on the act
There was a headline recently that identified that our online presence is already being scrutinised by insurance companies. For example, you make a claim for a burglary while you are on holiday, and then find it is rejected because you have plastered your Facebook page with photos of you on a sandy beach on an exotic island for two weeks. Saying ‘Hi, look at me in my bikini today on Bora Bora’ is a message that may reach more than your friends.
We have an obligation to ensure that what we want to remain private stays that way. Be very careful about what you share online as your obligation is to ensure you do not leave yourself open to abuse.
Everyone has the right to move and reside within the borders of his country and has the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to his country of origin.
I think this right is one that most of us take for granted. There are still some countries that prohibit movement within their borders and certainly make it difficult to leave. I would say that living in North Korea for example, must be very difficult, when a thin line drawn in a map has separated families for generations. Occasionally the right is given for families to meet for a few hours in a government facility, but it must be devastatingly difficult to live under those kind of restrictions. I have lived all over the UK and abroad and always been able to walk straight back in when I have chosen to. This right if we have it, is something to cherish.
Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries except in the case of prosecutions for acts that go against the rights detailed by the United Nations.
This right is of course one that should be given to those whose lives are in danger from a regime that is likely to imprison or kill you if you do not agree with them. Unfortunately, this is the reason given by virtually all those who are leaving war-torn countries such as Syria and seeking safety and a future for themselves and their families. Part of the problem is that it is very difficult to prove and the process is long and protracted. Especially when trying to verify the facts with the opposing government whose records are not as detailed as our own.
Officially there were 29,000 applications for asylum in the UK in 2015. More than half of the applications in any one year are refused. Whilst awaiting the appeal a refugee is housed for free, has access to education, health and each person is given £36.95 per week for food. It is very basic but in most cases much more preferable than living in fear in their own countries.
However, it would appear that many of those that are refused asylum simply disappear into the population anyway, and the Home Office admitted in 2014 that they had lost track of 40,000 illegal immigrants! Not surprising when so many face a far from welcoming homecoming if they were to be deported or are facing a return to a poverty stricken life.
The press and the public are very quick to attack the border control organisations and the Home Office for this lack of oversight. However with the asylum seekers already living within the British community, experiencing the wonders of freedom, and a much higher standard of living, is it any surprise that they are going to make every effort to stay.
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to verify the truth of the persecution. In some cases, such as those fleeing from Syria, the state of terror is quite clear but there are likely to be very few records to back up an asylum seeker’s story unless they are a high profile case. But of course there will be those who will want to take advantage of the situation, and use it as an entry into the UK and then join the other 40,000 who simply drift away out of official view. Most living within their own national communities and hiding in plain sight but sheltered from scrutiny.
There is no doubt that our own requirements for entry into the country need to be tighter but perhaps the problem will only be resolved when the cause for the massive crisis we face today is dealt with at source.
Everyone has the right to a nationality and should not be deprived of it or be denied to change his nationality.
This would seem a fundamental right. But even in the UK we see an anomaly. The Scottish, Welsh and Irish have a very proud history and used to be separate nations with their own kings and queens and culture. Over the centuries, usually through brute force, those nations have been brought under the one flag. We are now the United Kingdom and everyone is British.
However, many feel that this amounts to the loss of their own national identity. With devolvement to assemblies in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland there has been some repositioning of this nationality. However, there are moves a foot to move away from calling the United Kingdom the British Isles, to something more nationality sensitive. We shall have to see which alternatives are put forward. I heard recently during a conversation with someone with their ear to the ground that it might be along the lines of The Atlantic Isles.
It is equally difficult for those who come to live amongst us who also have a proud heritage and culture that they wish to maintain. To a large extent this is possible and there is no doubt in my mind that enriching our own culture with a great many new and diverse customs is a good thing. Of course there are a number of areas where we clash and I looked at some of those in the last chapter in relation to Sharia Law and equality of women in society.
Men and women of full age regardless of race, nationality or religion have the right to marry and have a family. They are entitled to equal right in marriage if it is dissolved. Marriage must be entered into with the full consent of both parties.
We tend to get very vocal about countries where arranged marriages and even child marriages are still culturally accepted but forget that in our own countries this was also the custom for hundreds of years. Including marrying ten and eleven year old princesses to 50 and 60 year old Kings! Certain families increased their wealth and holdings by making advantageous marriages with another elite family, and certainly it is only in recent generations that our own royalty has been able to marry for love rather than political expediency.
Laws have changed and you have to be 16 years old to legally marry in the UK. However, there are cultures that still believe in arranged marriages and having spoken to women who entered into a relationship in this way, many speak very positively about the experience. However, it would seem that second generation and third generation couples are far more likely to find love on their own.
With this right in relation to marriage, comes the usual obligation. If you have the freedom to marry then it should not be entered into lightly, particularly if children are then born and become your responsibility. I touched on this when looking at relationships and our relations in an earlier chapter. The statistics are very clear as revealed in this recent article.
The proportion of children born to unmarried mothers hit a record 47.5 per cent last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figure has risen from 25 per cent in 1988 and just 11 per cent in 1979.
If the trend continues at the current rate, the majority of children will be born to parents who are not married by 2016.
I am not suggesting for a moment that two people cannot choose to have children without being married, but there are some legal ramifications. Without the legal and binding agreement, should the relationship fail; one of the partners can leave and abandon responsibility for maintenance, care and provision for the other partner and the children.
To safeguard the future of any children there should be legal registering of the partnership and binding contracts drawn up, including wills, so that all children are supported and protected until they are 18 years old. A concerning statistic is that in the UK currently, two thirds of adults have not made a will. That is an estimated 40 million adults who have not made provisions for the disposal of their estates. Granted many believe that they do not have anything to leave so why bother. But, making a will is not just about money!
- Who do you wish to arrange your funeral and deal with your personal effects. A stranger or someone who you know and trust?
- Half the homes in the UK own a pet with an estimated 8.5 million dogs and 7.4 million cats.. not to mention budgies, rabbits and pet rats. Who do you want to take care of your beloved companion? Have you arranged a new home for your pet if something happens to you?
- And last but not least. Who will look after your children if something happens to you? This is particularly important if you are a single parent without a partner who is still supporting you. You must make arrangements and make it legal by leaving a will or another document that has been drawn up by a solicitor. Who do you want to bring your children up? Is there a family member who could give them a loving home or perhaps a very good friend? Do you want the authorities to decide what happens to your children?
Dying intestate means dying without leaving a valid will. If this happens the ‘intestate person’ will have their property shared out according to the ‘rules of intestacy’.
So If your estate is worth more than your debts and the cost of your funeral then it will be shared out with your registered legal partner (wife, husband or civil partner) getting the first £250,000, your personal possessions, and half of what remains after that, is split with any children you have once they reach the age of 18.
There are frequent headlines about single mothers who have a number of children with different partners who are being given benefits of £40,000 or more. The truth is that the majority of single parents find themselves in this situation because of a breakdown in a relationship or a bereavement. All families receive some form of benefits such as child allowance, but even with a single parent working it is hard to make ends meet. But it is not just the financial aspect as parenting is a also a physical, mental and emotional commitment. Being a single parent can impact health and also time spent with children and is very challenging.
What is sobering is the facts surrounding poverty with regard to single families.
- Only 9% of single parents are men, the onus is usually on the mother.
- 44 per cent of children in single parent families live in relative poverty, around twice the risk of relative poverty faced by children in couple families (24 per cent).
- Single parents’ risk of poverty has fallen over the past decade, yet those in single parent families are still nearly twice as likely to be in poverty as those in couple parent families.
So we have the right to marry who we wish, we can dissolve that marriage but it is stated that each partner is entitled to equal rights. However it would seem that is not the case in all families that split. Even if there is some financial settlement, there is still likely to be the onus on one parent, usually the mother for the care and wellbeing of the children. This is particularly the case when there is no legal and binding contract between the partners.
Everyone has the right to own property and cannot arbitrarily deprived of that property.
This right is personal favourite of mine. With a nomadic childhood and 17 homes since we married 36 years ago, I have come to realise how important it is to be able to close the door to you apartment, house, cabin in the woods and call it home. Even when we have rented accomodation it has been our home because we were together and surrounded by four walls and safety. This right is extremely precious and you only have to look at the statistics on homelessness to appreciate how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads to call our own.
In the UK there are 3,500 homeless sleeping rough each night. In the USA and estimated 500,000 and in India 1.8 million people who do not have the luxury of sleeping under their own roof or shelter of some kind.
Next time Freedom of speech and religion.
The other nine chapters can be found in this directory.
©sallycronin The R’s of Life 2016
Thank you for dropping in and your comments are always gratefully received. Sally