“Human dignity” is a term we hear a lot these days. It is a term we have long been familiar with as it is at the heart of human rights, but what is human dignity exactly?
What is human dignity?
If we simplify the concept of human dignity to its most basic element, it is the belief that all people hold a special value simply because of their humanity. It does not have anything to do with their gender, race, religion, abilities, class, or any other factor other than them being human.
That is to say, that is what human dignity means now. Originally, the English, French and Latin words for “dignity” aligned much closer with someone’s “merit.” If someone was “dignified,” it meant they were of a high status. This status could be because they belonged to royalty or the church, or because they had a lot of money. The phrase “human dignity” as we understand it today came when the United Nations ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Article 1 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Since that Declaration, human rights have been a legal right in international law. They deal with the value and quality of human life and with how people interact with one another. It is integral to all aspects of law, both public and private.
What does human dignity mean to our firm?
Human rights law is the heart and soul of our Teryl Scott Lawyers Inc. Our co-founder and senior counsel, Lisa Teryl, was the senior legal counsel for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for six years. She was also manager of legal services at the Human Rights Commission and manager of the Board of Inquiry administration. Today Lisa and her staff continue to help people with their human rights issues through workplace investigations.
Along with the human rights work that our firm practices, many hours are dedicated to prison advocacy. We believe that every human has dignity and that their health and social needs should be met, no matter their circumstances.
Respecting human dignity was also a driving factor in the development of our divorce mediation and workplace mediation programs. Mediation helps separate some of the conflict from tough situations, allowing the parties involved to see disagreements from a legal standpoint rather than an emotional one, keeping a space for respect in the discussions.
Furthering our exploration of Dignity
As a firm we read Dr. Donna Hicks best-selling book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict. Dr HIcks has gained worldwide recognition for her unique approach to transforming conflict by shedding light on our universal desire to be treated with dignity. Her unique focus on dignity and the essential role it plays in resolving conflict has transformed work environments for the world’s most prominent companies, non-profits and governmental agencies. You can hear her speak on the subject in the video below.
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