The demand for protecting human rights is a significant sign of social institutions improvements. Indian legislation established in the sixteenth century is an excellent example of the early attempts to protect human rights. The laws of the modern society include similar statements, yet have differences appeared due to the historical experiences of humanity, such as World Wars. This paper aims to compare the Indian legislation of the sixteenth century to the modern United Nations’ Human Rights Declaration.
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The expansion of Spanish colonies demanded regulative laws to establish proper relations between the Spaniards and the conquered nations. The formation of Indian legislation began from the Laws of Burgos that considered the welfare of conquered Indians who were often threatened by the Spanish occupants.
Then, in 1542, the New Laws of The Indies were formatted by King Charles and included more detailed and justified regulations. The establishment of such rules was the attempt to the sins against the Indians, such as cruelty and disrespect towards them (Casas 23). The regulations were based on the most recent theories about freedom and human rights. Indeed, the conquered people were considered free individuals with the right to choose a job and be paid for their work.
Human rights are mainly protected by the United Nations established after World War II to prevent the war’s horrors from repeating and for people involved in the crimes against humanity to answer for their deeds. United Nations claim that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (“Universal Declaration of Human Rights” 1). This statement reveals the central thesis of human rights protection and results from historical events and society’s improvements.
The most significant resemblance of the New Laws of The Indies and Human Rights Law of the United Nations is the obligation to consider human rights as the primary basis for establishing the local regulations. Modern laws address the intolerance to crimes against these rights, such as genocide, offenses against humanity, and war crimes (“Human Rights Law”).
The regulations of the sixteenth century were established to protect Indians from similar crimes of Spaniards. Casas in the “Destruction of the Indies” calls to prevent “injustice done to innocent people, destroying and tearing them apart without having a just cause or reason for it” (15). Casas also describes people’s life in different Spanish colonies, and provides evidence of fundamental human rights violations.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a strong power of human rights protection regardless of nation, identity, or location of a population. The Indian legislation’s statements did not include the established laws to define nations’ rights different from Indian. This contrast shows how different the understanding of humanity was at the times of the New Laws of The Indies from the modern one.
The comparison of these two human rights protecting regulations also reveals vast differences in the value of labor. The twenty-fourth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights claims that everyone has the right to rest and to get limited working hours. In contrast, Indian legislation did not regulate the limits of labor. Casas states that “they sent men to extract gold, which is intolerable work, and the women put in the ranches to dig the crops, work for powerful men and tough” (45). As labor defines social classes in many countries, now it is a crucial point to consider while discussing the rights of individuals.
The laws and charts that govern human rights are crucial acts of improving most of the population’s quality of life. Although the sixteenth-century laws did not perceive Indians, Spanish, and Portuguese separately, these regulations were the basis to consider in many decision-making processes similar to the modern United Nation’s Declarations. The optimal way of applying human rights is to set the same courts’ standards throughout the world (Zakariah 196). The attempts of giving freedom and rights for a better life are the critical milestones to the human rights empowerment.
Casas, Bartolomé, and Nigel Griffin. A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Penguin Books, 1992.
“Human Rights Law.” The United Nations. Web.
“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The United Nations. Web.
Zakariah, A. A. “Human Rights and the United Nations Charter: Transcendence of the International Standards of Human Rights.” Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, vol. 25, 2017, pp. 185-197.