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COVID-19 PANDEMIC VIOLATING HUMAN RIGHTS

Written by: Muskan Pipania & Prakhyat Gargasya, Students, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow


The United Nations defined human rights as those rights which are inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion or any other status, i.e. inherent in our state of nature and without which we cannot live as human beings. These rights are inalienable rights i.e. these rights are not subject to be taken away.

Article 55 of the United Nations states that the UN shall promote respect for and observance of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and pledges complete cooperation of the General Assembly of the United Nations.


On December 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a common standard for all people and for all nations, consisting 30 articles dealing with civil, political, economic, social as well as religious rights. The importance of Human Rights and Fundamental Rights in a democratic society is indispensable and does not need any reassertion.


In response to COVID-19, brands and retailers have cancelled orders without considering financial responsibility towards the wage workers who had wrapped up their products and ready to dispatch. These actions that led to worker's losing their jobs dismissals are contrary to brands’ human rights responsibilities outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; as well as the principles of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).[1]


Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, has observed the situation and stated that- “These are extraordinarily challenging times, yet clothing brands facing tough business choices to deal with the COVID-19 emergency, ought not forsake the daily wage laborers who manufacture their products," and further added that "Brands should find a way to limit the devastating economic consequences for garment workers in their global supply chains and for their families who depend on this income to survive.”[2]


In India, more than 122 million individuals in India lost their jobs in April, as per estimates from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Around 75% of them were daily wage workers and small traders adding up to the loss of more than 90 million jobs in April 2020 as compared to the 2019-20 average. As compared to other states, Tamil Nadu is the worst hit-state.[3]


On an average, employment diminished from 404 million during 2019-20 to 396 million in March 2020. In April it boiled down to 282 million (122 million assessed work losses);18 million businesses are evaluated to have lost work in April 2020. The average count of entrepreneurs was 78 million in 2019-20 which tumbled to 60 million in April 2020.[4]

Economies are battling, and by the end of 2020 more than 25 million occupations might be lost, as governments fight the pandemic with social distancing and lock-downs. As customer certainty remains frail, people will be cautious while stepping out, resulting in lower demand for goods and services. Companies have cut numerous jobs and subsequently have cut down on new hiring. In addition to it, companies have begun to search for productivity upgrades through adoption of new advances and technologies, outsourcing, automation and computerization. The new corporate mantra is 'More for Less'.


Companies firing their employees, violates Article 14 i.e. Right to Equality, as well as violates the Final column of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which deals with Social, Economic and Cultural rights of an individual, particularly violating Article 23- Clause (1) of the article states that every individual has right to work, whereas, Clause (3) states that everyone has a right to just and favourable renumeration.


Almost two billion individuals, who work in the informal sector are among the most in danger of losing income, having no job security or safety net to depend on. This may result in people losing their homes as well; violating Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that every individual has a right to standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, entitling special case and assistance to mother and children.


Moreover, Women and girls are at heightened risk of domestic violence during lockdowns due to social isolation, financial stress, breakdown of community structures and lack of information or access to social support, as well as disrupted court schedules.

Some countries have recognized the need to find adequate housing for everyone, including those who are homeless. The effort to address the needs of this marginalized population put at risk by their inability to follow hygiene recommendations or social distancing is necessary and laudable. But what will happen when the danger to public health has passed? Homelessness is a human-rights crisis playing out across the world, and temporary fixes aren’t enough without a longer-term plan that centres on everyone’s right to adequate housing.


In the United States, advocates are pushing for governments to take legislative or local action to protect renters, homeowners, landlords, and property managers. The US stimulus bill provided mortgage relief to certain homeowners whereas, some states and local governments have suspended utility disconnections and late fees. Similar steps have been taken in parts of Europe and Australia.[5]


As governments decide the ways to secure the people and the economy, they should address the necessities of the individuals who could lose their homes. Government ought to guarantee that nobody loses their home during this health and financial crisis.


As per a Linkedin survey, "More than two in five media professionals said their companies will fare worse in the next six months, exhibiting a bleak outlook towards the short-term future. One out of four manufacturing experts and more than one of every five IT experts felt the equivalent. "


It will take quite a long while of strong economic growth to bring back similar levels of employments that we had toward the start of 2020. This is not a time to neglect human rights; it is a time when are human rights should be taken seriously as these rights are necessary to navigate through this pandemic in order to concentrate again on accomplishing sustainable development while supporting peace and harmony.

References [1] Brands Abandon Asia Workers in Pandemic, Companies cancelling orders adding to job loss and unpaid wages, Human Rights Watch (April 1, 2020, 2:00 AM EDT), https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/01/brands-abandon-asia-workers-pandemic. [2] Brands Abandon Asia Workers in Pandemic, Companies cancelling orders adding to job loss and unpaid wages, Human Rights Watch (April 1, 2020, 2:00 AM EDT), https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/01/brands-abandon-asia-workers-pandemic. [3] The Hindu Data Team, An Estimated 12.2 Crores Indians Lost their jobs during the Coronavirus lockdown in April: CMIE, The Hindu (May 7, 2020 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/data/data-over-12-crore-indians-lost-their-jobs-during-the-coronavirus-lockdown-in-april/article31520715.ece. [4] The Hindu Data Team, An Estimated 12.2 Crores Indians Lost their jobs during the Coronavirus lockdown in April: CMIE, The Hindu (May 7, 2020 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/data/data-over-12-crore-indians-lost-their-jobs-during-the-coronavirus-lockdown-in-april/article31520715.ece. [5] Juliana Nnoko- Mewanu, In the Pandemic, Millions of People Could Lose their Homes, Human Rights Watch, (May 11, 2020, 7:00 AM EDT), https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/11/pandemic-millions-people-could-lose-their-homes.

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