Dignity of the Human Person

file1101277665895Hello folks! Its been a while right? I have been battling with Internet issues that somehow got in the way of putting up posts on the blog. However it seems today things are looking up again. I pray that we will one day finally overcome Internet issues in this country. Amen.

So after thinking of what to talk about today, I remembered another issue that frequently occurs in this country which gets me really upset and sad: lack of respect for the dignity of the human person. Nigeria is signatory to many international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention Against Torture and other related instruments, which clearly state that no one should be subjected to torture, cruel or degrading treatment, and we all have the right to dignity of our persons as humans. In spite of our country’s international and domestic commitment to respect these rights and others, we still find a lot of cases of violations, with little or no intervention from our government. Section 34 of the Constitution of Nigeria states that:

Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly:
1. No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Let me just briefly define some of the terms I have mentioned above like, Cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and dignity of the human person.

Cruel is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “disposed to inflict pain and suffering: devoid of human feelings”. Not having human feelings that are expected of normal human beings in the face of pain and suffering of another person is cruel. Cruelty is starker when the person inflicting the pain and suffering does it with no feelings of pity or sympathy for the victim who is the subject of the cruel act, but instead does it with indifference and even pleasure.

Inhuman” is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as “lacking pity, kindness or mercy: not worthy of or conforming to the needs of human beings” This definition connotes the suffering which no human should reasonably be made to go through or endure and which no human should inflict on another.

Degrading is “to lower in grade, rank or status: to lower to an inferior or less effective level. Treating a person in a degrading way, when looked at in the context of the definition is putting a person in a position or situation which is lower than that of other humans, in order to humiliate them. Almost as one would treat animals that one does not care about. I must say at this point that nowadays, even animals have rights as animal rights activists now abound :).

Dignity” in this context according the Merriam Webster dictionary means “the quality or state of being worthy, honoured or esteemed.”Dignity of the human person in my view would therefore mean treating a person with respect, as being worthy, treating a human body in a honourable way, in a manner that gives high esteem to the person.

Just last week a friend sent me a link to read. When I checked it, the caption was something like this: “woman caught cheating on her dead husband”. That got me really puzzled. When I scrolled down I was appalled when I saw pictures of a naked man and woman who were being paraded on a street by a mob. Then I decided to go ahead and read the story. I was even more appalled by the story, which read that the woman’s husband had died a few days ago and she was caught having sex with her lover before the deceased husband was buried. I had to take a pause and ask myself why what she did was classified as cheating. Is it actually possible to “cheat” on a dead person, who no longer has the ability to feel, think or even get angry that he has been cheated on? If the answer is “No”, then why mete out a demeaning punishment like that on the widow? Even if the man was still alive, could such degrading treatment be justified?

Usually, it is expected according to tradition in most parts of the country that a widow should mourn her husband for a few months or a year after he has passed on. She is also not expected to have any relationship with a man during that period, out of respect for her deceased husband. However, if a widow decides not to do so, for reasons best known to her, should she then be subjected to such demeaning and degrading treatment of walking around the village naked and asked to sit on the bare ground with her lover in that state? All of this was done, according to the perpetrators of the degrading treatment, to supposedly “cleanse” the village, for their immoral acts. I am a little bit satisfied that she was not asked to do this alone, as it happens in some other cases, where only the woman gets singled out for punishment for adultery; as in this case her “partner in crime” was also included in the punishment. However there is no justification for treating anyone in that manner. We have laws that govern all our dealings in the society and the rule of law must be upheld in all situations. Otherwise we would not be different from animals in the jungle.

What puzzled me most were comments that came after the post: so many people lauded the punishment, heaping insults on the woman, saying: “it serves her right”. I then wondered what our country was turning into. If in this day and age, people still applaud barbaric acts committed against fellow humans, all in the name of justice. Then I ask this question: in this case, justice for whom?, especially since the husband was dead.

The horrible “ALUU four” incident that occurred about a year ago readily comes to mind. Four young men, who were university undergraduates, were killed by a mob in the most barbaric manner, over an unfounded allegation that they were robbers: they were tortured, cruelly treated, degraded and eventually killed. This sort of mob justice keeps being a recurring decimal in our country and it is time for us to stop it. We have to stand up against injustices that we see happening around us on a daily basis, we should condemn in strong terms all acts of torture, cruel and degrading treatment and extrajudicial forms of justice, instead of supporting them. Who knows if tomorrow it would happen to us or very close to home? Only then would we realize that these are menaces that should be stamped out completely from our society regardless of our traditional beliefs.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Author: Tosne

I'm a human rights lawyer and I love writing my thoughts down because it allows me to express myself in a permanent form. I like to see women succeed and empowered in all aspects of their endeavors. I'm a super mom blessed with wonderful kids!

2 thoughts on “Dignity of the Human Person”

  1. My personal thoughts….. jungle justice based on pedophile activities, murder, rape, child molestation, kidnap and the likes is permissible. But jungle justice due to immorality, infidelity is a no no….

    Liked by 1 person

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