This year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan are a chance for nations to reunite once more after being separated by the grueling coronavirus pandemic. Per Human Rights Watch, the Games are an opportunity for Japan to rectify its record of human rights abuses still happening in the present day. These include corporal punishment for child athletes (a custom called taibatsu) and discriminatory practices against women and the LGBTQIA+ community.
The glitz and glamour of the Olympics make it hard to remember that many participating countries still perpetuate attitudes and behaviors directly contradicting the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Charter dictates that the Games must reflect the spirit of human cooperation and be inclusive for all. Therefore, the host country’s shady practices cast doubt on the integrity of the Games. Even so, any news exposing participating nations’ contradictions with the Charter competes with more attention-commanding reports of star athletes and glamorous ceremonies. This dichotomy is indicative of how the public is often tricked by superficiality and a false veneer, allowing unfavorable news to be glossed over so discreetly.
Just as with the Olympics, the media plays a huge role in furthering a false image of practicing Amish life. This allows the establishment to trample on children’s and women’s rights with no clear and prominent voice of opposition. There are reality shows, documentaries, and activists that all achieve the similar goal of keeping the Amish as insular as possible. If each individual Amish consented to the life they were born into, there would be nothing wrong with their reality (except the glaring human rights violations that occur due to the laws set forth by the Amish religion), but this is not the case. Only escapees are able to challenge the public’s current perception of their community.
The conundrum of Japan hosting the Olympics while the Asian superpower still grapples with callous and harmful traditions and mindsets is reminiscent of how America calls itself the “land of the free”, yet does not mandate the basic right of compulsory education.
It is particularly disturbing to know that the United States is still the only country in the world that has not signed the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Keep in mind that the USA participates in international events such as the Summer Games and even holds a permanent spot on the UN’s Security Council.
International cooperation is imperative for a stable world, but it does not bode well for future developments if individual nations are not taking their agreements seriously. It is particularly confusing to note that the USA is part of a handful of nations that are often at the vanguard of regional stabilization efforts and public castigations of rogue dictatorships.
What is the point of keeping the world in check when you ignore your own citizens’ well-being?
The same amount of energy put into celebrating landmark events and symbolic ceremonies should be dedicated to actively ensuring that human rights are a reality for everyone. Thanks to social media, official narratives are now challenged by independent voices calling for greater change in many issues. However, this summer’s Olympics are a reminder that there is still much work to be done.
Summer Intern, Amish Heritage Foundation