By Elochukwu Emeasoba
Recently the Institute of Humanities, Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos organized a One-Day Conference on human Dignity and Human rights. Among the Speakers who presented papers at the Conference included Femi Falana (SAN), Sharon Slater, Dr. Henrietta Williams, Prof. Carter Snead – De Director, Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre, Dr Anthony Okeregbe – Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos and Prof. Michael Asuzu, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, among others.
In her Keynote, Mrs. Sharon Slater regretted the gradual loss of sense of human dignity in the world today especially among teenagers. She deemed it fit to counter the pseudo- colonization of Africans through the subtle influence of CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education) by the UN body. Possessing a global view, Mrs Slater explained how destructive it is for people to be so sexually educated at the expense of losing their worth as humans – she gave an example of how an app, ‘Tuneme’, was created as a means of activating or stimulating the sexual urges of teenage girls and boys; encouraging them that it is normal to feel inclined towards the opposite sex, or, same sex, at their teenage year. Meanwhile, she pointed out the fact that the UN member states are not in support of such education introduced at any level of learning. That is, these UN states do realize how undignified such education proves to be.
Furthermore, Mrs. Slater stated that one of the UN’s policy phrases: ‘we are committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education’, is indeed a euphemism for promoting and legalizing abortion across the globe which to Slater is in sharp contrast to the promotion of the dignity of the human person including the dignity of the unborn child. This resonates in the words of Chimamanda Adichie, “think of people as people, and not as abstractions that have to conform to bloodless logic…,” And so, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, Mrs. Slater concluded by empowering her audience with ideas such as signing petitions against actions that are in violation of the dignity and rights of the dignity human person.
In his paper, the Guest Speaker, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, brilliantly submitted that the dignity of the human person is guaranteed under section 34 of the Nigeria constitution. The section reads in part: “Every person should be treated with dignity.” Dignity here, signifying that, everyone is worthy of esteem and respect. Mr. Falana stated that economic empowerment of the citizenry is a proper step to enjoying the right to human dignity guaranteed under section 34 of the constitution. According to him, a poor man should have the same level of human dignity and rights as that of a rich man. However, in reality, the poor man is usually less dignified because of his poor condition. Consequently Falana urged that that every citizen should possess a dignified form of livelihood in a bid to uphold his self-worth. The SAN narrated how in one of his outings with the music legend Fela who was at time his client he (Fela) had hit the car of another motorist. This motorist jumped out from his car and was about to physically assault Fela. But upon being told by another motorist that the person he was to assault was Fela the motorist retreated and drove off. In conclusion, the SAN strongly advised that all hands should be on deck in the promotion of the dignity and rights of the human person.
When Dr Henrietta Williams took the floor to present her paper, she won the hearts of the audience with her humanistic approach to the dignity and rights of every human being. You may be aware that Dr. Williams was the first medical doctor in Nigeria who performed the first Intro-Fertilization (IVF) in Nigeria. That was in 1979. And since that year Dr. Williams had vowed never to perform any IVF again because the process of IVF entails destruction of many fertilized eggs which are potential human beings. Since Dr. Williams stopped performing IVF she has discovered a successful-scientific method called NaPro technology which to her is a better alternative to IVF because it is safer, surer and cheaper . It brings about conception in the lives of ‘seemingly’ infertile couples. “NaPro technology is all about promoting the culture of life; preserving the right of family; and the dignity of the human person”, she said. “It’s no magic, it is a practical science,” Dr Williams insisted. “ NaPro Technology is aimed at consolidating the relationship between a husband and wife through child bearing while at the same time, keeping in mind the conjugal relationship necessary for their marital sustainability.” Dr. Williams went on to encourage the pro- life movement which heralds the full dose of homage due to a human being. She appealed to advocates of Pro Choice to respect the inviolability of human of human life.
According to Maya Angelou that, “nothing can dim the light that shines within,”. This can be attributed to the paper presentation of Prof. Carter Snead, and of course, to all conference speakers and participants. They were lights shining within the conference. Professor Snead illustrated the core details about human dignity and human rights. These details consist specifically in the practice of virtues, such as: generosity, gratitude, humility, truthfulness, friendship, solidarity. Among other things, his paper focused on the truth that, “human beings are made for love and friendship.”
To Professor M. C Asuzu, a clinical Epidemiologist at University Teaching Hospital, (UCH) Ibadan, human dignity and human rights are proper ethics which should never be neglected.
The conference ended on a good note. All the speakers unanimously agreed that it is worthwhile investing in the promotion of human dignity and human rights.
Elochukwu Emeasoba is a student of the University of Benin