Human Rights Day 2020: Two Indian women, Hansa Jivraj Mehta and Lakshmi Menon, played a pioneering role in the formulation of the Universal Human Rights Declaration (UDHR) in the mid-40s. On Human Rights Day we remember the two Indian women reformers who played a key role in making critical changes in the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hansa Jivraj Mehta, the Indian delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights, from 1947 to 1948, had insisted on rephrasing the line “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in the Article 1 of the Declaration. Hansa Jivraj Mehta ensured a more gender sensitive language in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Along with Hansa Jivraj Mehta, Lakshmi Menon was the other Indian woman who played a key role in formulating the Universal Human Rights Declaration. Lakshmi Menon, a champion of women’s rights, was a lawyer and freedom fighter. She was the Indian delegate to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in 1948. Lakshmi Menon argued for incorporating “non-discrimination based on sex” throughout the Declaration. She also strongly argued for including the line “equal rights of men and women” in the preamble to the Declaration.
Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): and proclaimed that everyone as a human being is entitled to rights irrespective of race, religion, colour, sex, social status or language. The UDHR is available in more than 500 languages, and is the most translated document in the world.
Led by Eleanor Roosevelt as Chairperson, the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), had other famous women like Evdokia Uralova of the erstwhile USSR, Minerva Bernardino from the Dominican Republic, Begum Shaista Ikramullah of Pakistan, Bodil Begtrup of Denmark and Marie Helene Lefaucheux of France.