Finalizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Part 3

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Finalizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Part 3

394 My Day

22 November 1948

Paris, Sunday—Two sessions of our committee Friday were devoted to Article Twenty-two of the draft of the Declaration of Human Rights, but as yet Article Twenty-one, which is being worked on by a subcommittee, has not yet been brought before us. That is because there is a real difficulty which presents itself in Article Twenty-one.

It deals with the right to work and the conditions of work. The Cuban delegate has the conviction that one of the statements in this article, saying that "everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work," should be supplemented by a statement to convey the idea that the needs of a man's family should be taken into consideration in deciding whether he receives adequate pay. This particular question has of course been argued by people for many years. The basis of pay is usually the amount of work you do and the skill or value of that work. If you tie a man's need up with his salary, I think a good many people would feel that one is treading on a somewhat dangerous path, since a man with ten children doubtless may need more than a man with only one or two. If an employer is going to pay more to a man just because he has ten children, then he is going to look for employees who don't have any children.

Long ago a great many of us decided that this question of a man's pay had to be considered in relation to his ability, and that an adequate standard of living would probably have to be achieved in certain circumstances through some kind of social services. For instance, in Great Britain a grant is given to help families with children. The same is done in France. This raises the family resources, and many of us feel that the thought which the Cuban delegate is trying to have embodied in the text should more properly be in Article Twenty-two, which deals with such matters.

After our committee had discussed many amendments, we finally drew up a draft of Article Twenty-two which read as follows:

"1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate to the health and well-being of his family and himself, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, and to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

"2. Motherhood and childhood have the right to special care and assistance."

This second provision is dear to the heart of the delegate from the Dominican Republic. She has fought for the rights of women for many years in her country, and her main point was that it was a right and not a charity to give special care and assistance to mothers and children. A storm broke loose, however, because the Russian delegate said both the United Kingdom and the United States had noted the fact that while they accepted this paragraph, still motherhood and childhood were really not exactly the right words to use. In Russian, he said, it made no sense, and he would be the laughing-stock of everyone, since any baby would understand that this paragraph was not well worded. Both the United Kingdom delegate and I myself had in fact been originally content to say simply "mother and child," as was stated in the original draft of the article. But for the sake of harmony we had accepted the change and that was the way it was voted in spite of protests.

A third paragraph was added which read: "Children born out of wedlock shall enjoy the same social protection as those born in marriage." This paragraph I had opposed, for it seemed to me entirely obvious that all children, being themselves blameless, were entitled to the same special care and assistance, and I did not feel that special reference to this condition was called for in the Declaration. Moreover, it seems to me that the provision about childhood already contained in the second paragraph clearly referred to all childhood. But a majority of the committee felt differently, and so the entire article was adopted with this paragraph included.1


1. In the final draft of the declaration the wording remained essentially the same and became part 2 of Article 25: "Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection" (Glendon, 313).

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Finalizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Part 3

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