Equality And Human Rights In Counseling Practice

The current world today has established the concept that every human being is empowered and authorised for a solemn existence. It is a common occurrence where human beings demand the achievement of diverse values ​​to ensure their individual and collective wellbeing. However, these claims or demands of rights is denied through exploitation, oppression, persecution, and so on, in many countries of the world, (Weston, 1984). Human rights gained international attention subsequently after the Second World War, where it occurs that millions of people lost their lives. Petrified by the mass destruction of life caused by the Second World War, the United Nations (UN) members took the pledge to take steps in achieving the universal respect for the preservation of human rights and the principle of freedoms for all, Sills (1968). The term 'human rights' were used since World War II, and is increasingly important in contemporary debates and become a global occurrence. After adopting the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) on 10 December 1948 by the United Nations, it was seen by many as an optimistic sign for better protection, promotion and enforcement of human rights. However, 50 years from the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has been reported that human rights violations have not fallen. The world is filled with examples of fundamental violations such as censorship, discrimination, political imprisonment, torture, slavery, disappearances, genocide, extremist killings, arbitrary arrests, killings, poverty, and so forth. The rights of women and children were also neglected in various ways, (O'Byrne, 2005).

There are various contemporary human rights definitions. The United Nations calls on human rights as natural rights, and without it, we cannot live as human beings, (Mishra, 2000). Human rights are everyone's property and are not dependent on the individual's specific or the relationship between rights holders and rights guarantors. Human rights are the rights that every human being has equally by their humanity. It is grounded in an appeal to our human nature. Christian Bay defined human rights as a demand that should have legal and moral safeguards to ensure that basic needs are met (Coicaud et al. ,2003). The human rights definition as the minimum right that every individual must have against the government or other public authorities based on being a member of the human family. Shree P. P. Rao said human rights are inherent dignity and inseparable rights of all human family members who recognise them as the basis of freedom, justice and peace in the world. For D. D. Raphael, human rights in the conventional sense show the rights of the human. However, in a more distinct sense, human rights are the rights that one possesses due to being a human, (Vincent, 1986).

In the year 1989, world leaders decided that children need a special convention just for them as those below the age of 18 often need special care and protection more than adults need. Leaders also want to ensure that the world recognises that children have human rights as well. The CRC also is known as the Convention on the Rights of the Child or is the first legally binding international instrument to combine various human rights-including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The CRC's provisions and principles open the way for UNICEF to advocate and support the protection of children's rights by helping children meet their basic needs and expanding their chances of achieving their highest potential. The Convention sets these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It explains the fundamental human rights that children everywhere have, which are the right to survive; to grow fully; for protection against harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and fully participate in family, cultural and social life.

There are four basics principles of the convention, which are equity or non-discrimination, dedication to the best interests and significance of the child, the right to life, survival and growth, and respect the views of the child. Every right stated in the CRC is inherent in human dignity and the development of the harmony of every child. The Convention protects the rights of children by setting standards in health care, education, and legal, civil and social services. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is the leading agency for protecting children and young people (CYPs) from abuse and neglect in Singapore. MSF works with other government agencies and non-government agencies to develop the Child Protection System to protect CYP's interests and welfare in Singapore. Child Protection Services (CPS) at MSF carry out statutory roles in investigating and intervening in CYP cases that have been harmed or at high risk to endanger the future. The majority of CPS cases deal with CYP who are being abused by family members (intra-familial abuse). While the CPS conducts a social investigation into the safety and protection of the CYP, the Singapore Police Force conducts a simultaneous criminal investigation into an offence against the CYP. There is a close collaboration between the two agencies in investigating allegations of child abuse and ensuring CYPs safety. CYP's long-term safety and security is implemented through security planning, comprehensive investigations, holistic assessments and implementation of intervention plans. This is done in close collaboration with family and community partners.

Child abuse affects the victim in different ways. These programs are designed to the needs of each CYP to equip them with self-protection strategies, dealing with trauma or special needs arising from abuse, and helping them to return to the path to recovery. Efforts are also being made to support families with services to enhance their function and capability to meet CYP's requirements. Case conferences are held in various places among professionals to share information, review CYPs and family progress and provide ongoing services to support CYP's safety and well-being. Counsellor or therapist bias is one of the challenges that issues of equality and human rights present to guidance and counselling practitioners in 21st-century society. No one is invulnerable from bias, not even counsellors or therapists. Every human being has a bias. However, one's perception, attitude and action make a difference. Counsellor bias can be in many forms, especially with regards to the client's social class, age, race, religion, gender, sexuality, disability and so forth. Trawinski (2015), defines therapist or counsellor bias as perceptions, attitudes, emotions, beliefs or ideas that limit the healing ability of therapists to connect with their clients as a whole, or which triggers a tendency to marginalise the aspect of the person's experience. If left unobserved, therapeutic bias may harm the client by replicating (in therapy) the stigmas and bias the clients face in the outside world or triggering internal suppression and thus damaging the sense of self.

At the same time, bias is seen to become an essential looking glass into the therapist and client experience that can enlighten, deepen, and change the relationships between clients and therapists. In recent informal sampling conducted by Lifeworks, a large number of clients have clearly stated that they have experience in which the bias of previous therapists about kink or non-monogamy becomes a barrier to their care or inhibiting their experience in therapy. In an unpublished study by Henrich (2011), 50% of clients who recognise as polyamorous stated that they had witnessed therapists that they felt lacked cultural competence and seemed bias. Participants in the study also stated that therapists who were uninformed on polyamory, or biased to monogamy, led the client to avoid specific topics or leave therapy. Guidance and counselling practitioners should receive training and education on learning to recognise the bias within themselves. By acknowledging that everyone holds a particular bias, one can begin to discover and work with unexamined perceptions, beliefs and attitudes that are unknown or not tested to enhance the ability to understand the diverse experiences that clients may bring.

Then again, getting rid of the bias is seemingly impossible. However, it is possible for therapists to embrace and turn bias into something that enhances the ability to experience and support the integrity of the clients. Likewise, the awareness and transformation of therapist bias is a lifelong effort. Next, a rising legal and ethical cases have involved value conflicts between counsellors and their clients. As a result of these legal cases, many discussions have been made on the issue as to whether the counsellor can use their religious beliefs as a basis for referring LGBT clients as well as a wider question of whether the referrals based on value conflicts has always been ethically appropriate. Some counsellors and therapists with strong religious beliefs have interpreted ethical standards as providing support for the decision to refer LGBT clients. They argue that, since they see the same sex as immoral according to their religious beliefs, they cannot acknowledge this relationship in counselling sessions. Therefore, they cannot help these clients effectively, and an ethically acceptable action is by referring them. Those who interpret the ACA Code of Ethics (ACA, 2005) differently believe that refusing to counsel or advise LGBT clients on relationship issues is discrimination, and they refer to ethical standards that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. They emphasize that "the inability to be professional help" refers to the lack of efficiency to work effectively with certain clients, not the whole class of clients, and it is the therapist's responsibility "to acquire knowledge, personal awareness, sensitivity, and skills associated with working with the client's population diversity, as well as LGBT clients.

One way to overcome this issue is by using ethical bracketing method. The ethical bracketing (EB) is defined as the deliberate separation of the personal values ​​of the counsellor of his or her professional values ​​or to purposely set aside the personal values ​​of the counsellor to provide ethical and appropriate counselling to all clients, especially the worldview, the values, belief systems, and decisions differ significantly from the counsellors. When counsellor deliberately dismisses or restricts their values ​​to respect their professional duties, they help to avoid imposing those values ​​on the client and contributing to the customer's authorisation to achieve their therapeutic goals. Counsellors may also include EBs in direct practice with customers using collaborative or relational ethics. Many ethical scholars recommend, when appropriate, practitioners work together with clients in exploring potential value-based conflicts and how they can affect therapeutic relationships (Anderson & Handelsman, 2010; Davis, 1997; Evans et al. , 2011) The contacts between different cultures in the world are increasing as people of different race and culture are continuously moving from one country to another. Subsequently, communication in cross-cultural or multicultural counselling is one of the challenges present in the issue of equality and human rights in the field of guidance and counselling. Cross-cultural communication occurs when the client happens to be a person from a different culture or often viewed as ‘different’ or ‘peculiar’ by the counsellor. This phenomenon can be seen as a type of interacting process between different cultures. Cross-cultural communication can be challenging as cultural differences between people are vast. The different use of language and how it is perceived is the primary challenge for both counsellor and client. Apart from that, there are other factors that affect communication and styles within such as different of gender roles, body language, religion, perception of time and the different understanding of certain subject like work (Garcea, 2005).

Practitioners should develop their communication skills and efficiency in order to practice in a cultural diverse society. Considering the experiences that the counsellor gained from his or her career, it is still difficult to get along and understand the people who are different, especially in terms of culture and religion. Hence, it is most important for counsellor to have self-awareness and better understanding of various cultures and on top of that possess a good multicultural communication skills. In order to be an efficient counselling practitioner, counsellor must first be able to recognize his or her own beliefs, values and biases. On top of that, a vast knowledge of counsellors own racial and cultural heritage will be a great starting point to address cross-cultural communication. As an adequate counsellor, it is vital to have or establish a pleasant client and counsellor bond as a form of helping the client. In example, if a school counsellor wish to establish good rapport with adolescents, it is essential for the counsellor to learn and know something of their culture beforehand in order to break the ice. Adolescents cultures can be from the fashion they are interested in, certain slangs or trends and even music that they listened to. This situation matches well with multicultural counselling whereby to communicate productively, it is crucial to possess some understanding and knowledge of certain cultures, history, social and not to forget religious background and also present socio-politic situations. Having the mind-set to acknowledge that differences among human exist and the importance to value and respect cultural differences is what helps the counsellor to build a good relationship with clients from different cultures, values and religions.

Thus, in cross-cultural counselling and intercultural communication, guidance and counselling practitioners does not have to know and learn every single thing about other cultures and belief, instead counsellor should be take note of the significance of culture on the characters or personalities, behaviour and communication traits of both the client and counsellors themselves (Metsanen, 2000). The laws of some States - in some cases, at the constitutional level - clearly require local governments to respect human rights (e. g. Australia, Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco and Slovenia). In some other countries, each constitutional prerequisite applies to all public powers, for example, Austria, Bosnia, Azerbaijan, and Herzegovina, Germany, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, South Sudan, Spain and Togo. In Luxembourg, communist powers must be implemented in the law, which means that they are required to comply with the human rights guaranteed by law. In some countries, the task of local governments to abide by human rights is limited in the law to specific rights or principles.

For example, the Local Self-Government Act of Serbia states that municipalities must ensure promotion and protection of national minority rights and ethnic groups. In Slovenia, the municipal administration is required by law to maintain gender mainstreaming. In Ireland, local government law does not explicitly allocate for the promotion and protection of human rights, but in carrying out their functions, the local authorities are required to take note of the need to promote social inclusion. Similarly, the law on local governments in India does not explicitly mention the protection of human rights between their responsibilities; However, constitutional mandated federal functions are directly related to human rights, such as the implementation of initiatives for democratic inclusion, welfare measures and the local justice system. The primary challenge faced by local governments in the protection and promotion of human rights is politics, economy and administration. The biggest problem faced by the local government is the lack of political will, especially in countries with a non-democratic system or new democracy. This is exacerbated by political conflict and tension in this country. Local governments in these countries experience autonomy shortfalls and lack of long-term vision, planning and commitment. Additionally, tensions and power struggles may exist between central and local governments, especially in instances of instability or conflict. Besides, in the United States with a very centralised structure, it may also be challenging to develop substantial political efforts for human rights at the local level. The lack of autonomy and self-government prevents accountability and a sense of responsibility for the implementation of human rights.

Centralised policies and structural adjustment measures may often impede compliance with human rights in local governments. The second challenge to the local government that hinders the implementation and promotion of human rights is the lack of resources or institutional capacity, either with the lack of political will to enable local government, or a problematic economic situation in the country. The Special Rapporteur's report on adequate housing as a component of the right to proper standard of living, and the right not to discriminate in this context, Leilani Farha, for the role of other local and subnational governments, highlighted the conclusion that "decentralization does not always benefit the implementation of housing rights adequate" (A/HRC/28/62). While decentralisation has the potential to be conducive to democratic participation, people's involvement, transparency and accountability, these positive features depend on the existence of political mechanisms and demands for democratic governance. The lack of resources and estimates needed to finance the implementation of projects and services at the local level will affect the ability of local governments and reduce their behaviour in local communities. In brief, the challenges addressed in the issues of equality and human rights present to guidance and counselling practitioners are not essentially part of most practitioners’ experiences. Hence, they might not know the depth of certain things and how to deal such encounters.

In addition, Matinheikki-koko (1997) expressed that there is significant evidence that stated the impact of racism and social exclusion that negatively manipulate human’s physical and mental well-being. Thus, guidance and counselling practitioners should be extra mindful of the negative emotional reactions and after-effects caused by bias, value conflicts and discrimination or prejudice against race, culture and religion.

Counsellor too must be fully aware of the relevance in acquiring knowledge about the strength of each client in orders to find the focal point of their problems and traumatic life experiences in with the regards of equality and human rights. Other than that, as a competent counsellor, one should have dedication of understanding themselves better and avoid and prejudice identity in order to further be assistance of the client. It is important for the counsellors to have the capabilities of recognising the boundaries of their efficiency and to solicit professional assistance and expertise from qualified professionals when they have to. It is encouraged of counsellors to find educational, consultative and real-life experiences to embellish their understanding and adequacy in working with equality and human rights.

18 May 2020
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