International Journal of Applied Management Research (IJAMR) TiSSL International Publications, Belgium March 2013

ISSN: 0974-8709

HUMAN RIGHTS FOR THE WELLBEING OF OLDER PERSONS
P.Udhayakmar and Dr. P.Ilango Abstract: Human rights are the most fundamental rights of human beings. In recent years rumors have been aired concerning the impending recognition of old age rights which would appear alongside the human rights of minorities, women, child and persons with disabilities. The human right of older persons is a topic that has been long time neglected and at present human rights is increasingly taken into consideration by the government and policy makers in some countries, but often in a haphazard way. As far as India is concern, the older generations are not aware of their human rights due to high prevalence of illiteracy and lack of awareness. This article provides an overview of older person’s basic human rights principles and international human rights for older persons. Keywords: Human Rights, Older Persons and Old Age Rights P.Udhayakumar, Research Scholar, Department of Social Work, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli P.Ilango, Professor & Head, Department of Social Work, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli Introduction The right to life is the most fundamental human right and cannot be subject to derogation even in war or in states of emergency. Unlike the prohibition of torture or slavery, however, the right to life is not an absolute right (Manfred Nowak, 2005). Human rights are the most fundamental rights of human beings. They define relationships between individuals and power structures, especially the State. Human rights delimit State power and, at the same time, require States to take positive measures ensuring an environment that enables all people to enjoy their human rights (Megret, 2005). The elderly population is the fastest growing portion of society. By 2025, more than 1.2 billion people will be aged sixty or above and more than seventy percent of them will be residing in what are currently considered developing countries. Developed and developing countries address the issues of the aging population in different ways. In developing countries, the lack of a social security apparatus and the weakening of the family unit present obstacles to the provision of care for elderly family members (Pinzon and Martin, 2003). Further, the rights of the older persons were also neglected. The human right of older persons is a topic that has for a long time been neglected. Domestically, it is a dimension that is increasingly taken into account, in at least some countries, but often in a haphazard

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way (Megret, 2011). During the year 2009 the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee recommended a study on the ‘need to protect the human rights of the older person in the context of a human rights framework’. This article discusses the main idea of human rights for older persons. The article first introduces the concepts of human rights. Second, human rights and older persons, third United Nations initiative for human rights and finally social work practice in human rights. What is Human Right? Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. 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 (United Nations, 1949). Human rights are the most fundamental rights of human beings. They define relationships between individuals and power structures, especially the State. Human rights delimit State power and, at the same time, require States to take positive measures ensuring an environment that enables all people to enjoy their human rights (Megret, 2005). Human rights are fundamental to the stability and development of countries all around the world. According to Australian Human Rights Commission (2009) Human rights are defined as ‘Human rights’ are defined by section 3 of the AHRC Act as the rights and freedoms contained in specific international instruments that are scheduled to, or declared under, the AHRC Act. Human right is a universal moral right, something which all men, everywhere, at all times ought to have, something of which no one may be deprived without a grave affront to justice, something which is owing to every human simply because he is human (Augender, 2002). Basic Human Rights Principals (Nowak, 2005). 1. Human Rights are Universal Human rights are universal because they are based on every human being’s dignity, irrespective of race, colour, sex, ethnic or social origin, religion, language, nationality, age, sexual orientation, disability or any other distinguishing characteristic. Since they are accepted by all States and peoples, they apply equally and indiscriminately to every person and are the same for everyone everywhere. 2. Human Rights are Inalienable Human rights are inalienable insofar as no person may be divested of his or her human rights save under clearly defined legal circumstances. For instance, a person’s right to liberty may be restricted if he or she is found guilty of a crime by a court of law. 3. Human Rights are Indivisible and Interdependent Human rights are indivisible and interdependent. Because each human right entails and depends on other human rights, violating one such right affects the exercise of other human rights. For example, the right to life presupposes respect for the right to food and to an adequate standard of living. The right to be elected to public office implies access to basic education. The defence of economic and social rights presupposes freedom of expression of assembly and of association.

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4. The Principle of Non-Discrimination Some of the worst human rights violations have resulted from discrimination against specific groups. The right to equality and the principle of nondiscrimination, explicitly set out in international and regional human rights treaties, are therefore central to human rights. The right to equality obliges States to ensure observance of human rights without discrimination on any grounds, including sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, membership of a national minority, property, birth, age, disability, sexual orientation and social or other status. Older People and Human Rights – Conceptual Issues Older people are beginning to represent a large proportion of the general population and have become a major area for social programming in many parts of the world. However, neglect or violation of older people’s rights is common (Tang & Lee, 2006). The 2001 census has shown that the elderly population (60+) of India accounted for 77 million and census 2011 projections indicate that elderly population has crossed the 100 million mark. It took more than 100 years for the aged population to double in most of the countries in the world, but in India it has doubled in just 20 years. The life expectancy has also gone up to over 70 years today (Agewell Foundation, 2011). According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, one out of every ten people on the planet is now 60 years of age or older. If the current trend of lowering birth rates and lowering death rates continues, by the year 2050 one out of five people will be aged 60 years or older and by 2150, one out of every three people will be aged 60 years or older. Additionally, the oldest old are the most rapidly expanding segment of the elderly population. Currently, the oldest old make up 11 percent of the 60+ age group and will grow to 19 percent by 2050. The global phenomenon of population ageing brings with it a host of challenges for many older people: economic insecurity, poor health, social isolation and prolonged dependency (Tang & Lee, 2006). The Human Rights Act influences the way public services are delivered to older people. The Human Rights Act says that providers of public services, such as staff at residential homes and hospitals or carers in your own home, must make sure that they do not breach your human rights (British Institute of Human Rights, 2010). International Human Rights and Old Age Rights In recent years rumors have been aired concerning the impending recognition of old age rights which would appear alongside the human rights of minorities, women, child and persons with disabilities (Bobbio, 1996). The movement for old rights seemingly achieved momentum at the beginning of 2010 when the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council delivered a working document defending “the necessity of human rights approach and effective United Nations mechanism for the human rights of the older person” (Human Rights Council, 2010). In January 2010, the Advisory Committee to the Human Rights Council released a report on the human rights of older persons. The “Chung report”, namely after the repporteur Ms. Chisung Chung, is a research document that illustrates, in sections I and II, the global impact of demographic ageing and the increasing number of human rights violations suffered worldwide by older persons in area such as

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physical and moral integrity, susceptibility to poverty, employment, social security and health care. After discussing the need (“necessity”) for a human rights treaty, the reports presents in section V a non-exhaustive list of human rights of the older person, prepared by the Yale law school ( Loweinstein, 2010). One of the basic claims of the Chung report is that a treaty on the human rights of the older person enhanced the visibility of older persons in human rights law. UN Principles for Older Persons Independence  Older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and healthcare through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help.  Older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have access to other Income-generating opportunities.  Older persons should be able to participate in determining when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.  Older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities. Participation  Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their wellbeing and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations.  Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities.  Older persons should be able to form movements or associations of older persons. Care  Older persons should benefit from family and community care and protection in accordance with each society’s system of cultural values.  Older persons should have access to healthcare to help them to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and to prevent or delay the onset of illness.  Older persons should have access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection and care.  Older persons should be able to utilize appropriate levels of institutional care, providing protection, rehabilitation and social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment. Self-fulfilment  Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for the full development of their potential.  Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual and recreational resources of society.

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Dignity  Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.  Older persons should be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status, and be valued independently of their economic contribution. Specific Human Rights for Older Persons (BIHR, 2009) Human rights which are widely used to protect older people are:  The right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way;  The right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence; and  The right to life. The right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights says that no one shall be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way. This right is an absolute right. This means that no one should not be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way in any circumstances, as this right may never be breached, restricted or limited. The right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence Article 8 of the European Convention protects the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. This right guides the older persons in their private life (personal choice and dignity), personal and sexual life, cultural needs, physical and mental wellbeing, participation in community life, access to personal information. The right to life Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to life. This right has two aspects to it. Public authorities must:  Not take away your life, except in a few very limited circumstances. These circumstances are lawful action taken to defend someone from violence, to arrest someone, to prevent someone who is lawfully detained from escaping, or to suppress a riot. Any action taken must use no more force than is absolutely necessary.  Take reasonable steps to protect your life. For example there should be adequate laws in place to protect our self from others who might want to take away our life. 1948 United Nations and major landmarks of older people’s rights Universal Declaration of Human Rights General Assembly adopted resolution 213 (III) A draft declaration on the rights of the elderly The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) The First World Assembly on Ageing (Vienna) (The Vienna International Plan of Action on Aging) United Nations Principal for Older Persons 5

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1982 1991

(Five principles: independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity) 1992 47th Secession of the General Assembly Resolution on Global Targets on Ageing for the Year 2001 and the Proclamation on Ageing 1995 Committee on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights, General comment No.6: The economic, social and cultural rights of older persons 1999 The International Year of Older Persons (Proclamation on Ageing) (Conceptual Framework) (Operational Framework) 2002 Second World Assembly on Ageing (Madrid) Adoption of the Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Acton, 2002 Source: Tang and Lee (2006) Barriers in using Human Rights for Older Persons The research identifies five key barriers to older people making use of human rights (BIHR, 2009): 1. The Human Rights Act is about political correctness, not the treatment of older people. 2. Human rights are an issue in dictatorships, not Britain. 3. People should not have to use legal rights to get action. 4. Lack of faith that using the Act will make any difference. 5. Lack of information and system navigation skills. Human Rights and Social Work On an international level, the link between social work and human rights appears more developed than in the United States. Ethical principles issued by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) highlight the importance of human rights declarations and conventions and underlying human rights principles (International Federation of Social Workers, 2009). Integration of human rights into social work policies and practices is essential, regardless of whether the perspective is individual or societal. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE, 2008) now mandates the integration of human rights into curricula of US schools of social work. Basic concepts underlying human rights present little that is new to the social work profession. The profession has a history of advocating for education, equality, healthcare, housing, and fairness, all of which fit neatly under the umbrella of human rights (Healy, 2008). Conclusion At present the older persons have lost their basic rights due to rapid industrialization and urbanization which shifted the joint family system into nuclear family and as the result the elders were not given due recognition in the family and society as well. Older people are often discriminated against within families and services, and this discrimination is often underpinned by the legal systems and government policies of individual countries. Older people’s rights are set out in a range of international agreements, but are often ignored. In India older generations are not aware of their human rights due to high prevalence of illiteracy and lack of 6

awareness. Further, older people face hardship because of society’s negative attitudes towards them and they rarely report these abuses because of fear, and ignorance of their rights. Today creating awareness on human rights for older persons and protecting their basic human rights has become the prime responsibility for government and other organizations which work for the welfare of the older persons. Finally to decrease the incidences of age-discrimination, age-discriminatory policies like retirement policies in both government and public sector, various reservation policies need to be amended. References Agewell Foundation (2011). Human Rights of Older Persons in India – A National Study. Agewell Research and Advocacy Centre. New Delhi. www.agewellfoundation.org Augender, S. (2002). “Questioning the Universality of Human Rights”, 28(1&2) Indian Socio Legal Journal, 28(1), Pp. 80. Australian Human Rights Commission (2009). Defining Human Rights. Retrieved from www.humanrights.gov.au/education/hr_explained/ British Institute of Human Rights (2010). Your Human Rights – A guide for older people. London. www.bihr.org.uk British Institute of Human Rights (2009). Older People and Human Rights. A reference guide for professionals working with older people. London. www.bihr.org.uk Bobbio, N. (1996). The Age of Rights. Oxford: Policy Press Council of Social Work Education (2008). Educational policy and accreditation standards. Alexandria: Council of Social Work Education. Diego Rodriguez-Pinzón & Claudia Martin (2003). The International Human Rights Status of Elderly Persons. American University International Law Review, 18(4), 916- 972. Frederic Megret (2011). The Human Rights of Older Persons: A Growing Challenge. Human Rights Law Review, 11(1), Pp. 37-66 Help Age International (2011). HelpAge International’s submission for the Consultation on the Human Rights of Older Persons Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing. Human Rights Council (2010). The necessity of a human rights approach and effective United Nations mechanism for the human rights of the older persons. 4th sesson, Pp. 25-29. Human Rights Council and Advisory Committee (2010). The necessity of a human rights approach and effective United Nations mechanism for the human rights of the older person - Chung report. Healy, L. (2008). International socialwork: Professional action in an interdependent world (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

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International Federation of Social Workers (2009). Retrieved from http:// www.ifsw.org on 1st July 2009. Jagnoop Kaur (2012). Human Rights in India. International Journal Of Research In Education Methodology Council For Innovative Research, 1(2), Pp. 8-11. Kwong-Leung Tang and Jik-Joen Lee (2006). Global Social Justice for Older People: The Case for an International Convention on the Rights of Older People. British Journal of Social Work, 36, 1135-1150. Loweinstein, A.K. (2008). Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons - Chung report. Manfred Nowak (2005). Human Rights: Hand Book for Parliamentarians. Geneva, Mehta, P.L & Jaswal, S.S. (2004). “Human Rights: Concept and Ideology”, 30(1&2) Indian Socio Legal Journal, Pp. 83-85. Paul De Hert & Eugenio Mantovani (2011). Specific Human Rights for Older Persons. European Human Rights Law and Review, 4, Pp. 397-418 Reed, J. and Clarke, C. L. (1999). ‘Nursing older people: Constructing need and care’, Nursing Inquiry, 6(3), pp. 208–15. United Nations (1948). United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. www.lexmercatoria.org

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