16 Social Justice Examples

social justice examples and definition, explained below

Social Justice is a type of justice and political philosophy that refers to a fair and equal division of resources, opportunities, access to wealth and social privileges in a society.  

The concept first surfaced in the Western world in the aftermath of the industrial revolution. It emerged as a protest to what was seen as the capitalist exploitation of labor, and as an important moment in time to improve the human condition (United Nations, 2006).

Definition of Social Justice

Social Justice is a concept of fairness in relations between human beings in a society and their fair and equal rights.

It was first developed during the industrial revolution, but the idea of social justice received more attention due to John Rawls’ publication A Theory of Social Justice in 1971.

John Rawls was an American political philosopher; his ideas included the guiding principle that people have “an equal right to the most extensive system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all”. (Rawls, 2005)

The ideas of John Rawls have continued to be an important factor in world economics and politics. According to the United Nations’ statement on World Day of Social Justice:

“Social justice is based on the values of fairness, equality, respect for diversity, access to social protection, and the application of human rights in all spheres of life, including in the workplace.” (Ban Ki-moon, 2010)

Social Justice involves several aspects to create a fair and equal society such as access to economic resources, equity, participation, diversity, climate justice, and human rights.

The concept of social justice must therefore integrate various dimensions, starting with the right of all human beings to benefit from a safe and pleasant environment (United Nations, 2006).

“This entails the fair distribution among countries and social groups of the cost of protecting the environment and of developing safe technologies for production and safe products for consumption” (p. 7)

Social Justice Examples

Social justice includes:

  • Human Rights – Everyone is entitled to their natural rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. (UDHR, 1948)
  • Right to participation – Create opportunities and political platforms for individuals to participate in decision-making procedures that affect their well-being.
  • Intergenerational justice – This refers to the obligations of older generations to younger generations. Today, this has a lot to do with cleaning up the environmental damage done by generations past (see: environmental injustice examples).
  • Indigenous justice – Oppressed indigenous populations seek social justice in the form of fair access to social services and fair treatment.
  • Economic participation – This refers to the right for people to participate in the economy, start a business, sell their goods, or get a job.
  • Access to resources – Fair division of economic benefits and services, sometimes referred to as “distributive justice.” (Center for Economic and Social Justice, 2019)
  • Gender equality – Refers to equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for women and men and girls and boys.
  • Child welfare – Ensure physical, social, and psychological well-being of children.
  • Access to education – Close the education gap between male, female, poor and rich students. For example, in some areas of the world girls never set foot into a classroom. More than nine million girls never go to school, compared to only six million boys in areas of Africa. (UNESCO, 2019)
  • Food security – End hunger and ensure sustainable agriculture for all.
  • Access to healthcare – Ensure healthy lives, access to hospitals and clinics, and promoting well-being at all ages.
  • Right to be different (aka Diversity) – Implement policies, embrace cultural differences, and put an end to discriminatory practices based on social identities like race, gender, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, age etc.
  • Climate justice – Recognize the climate crisis as a social and political problem. It is about intersectional equity, ensuring everyone’s access to clean air, food, and water.
  • Right to a family – It is socially just to allow all people the right to reproduction as well as the right to not have a family.
  • Right to fair trial – A just society gives all people – guilty or not – to a fair and unimpeded trial in the court of law.
  • Environmental justice – This refers to the importance of ensuring poor, disenfranchised, and minority communities do not face the economic consequences of wealthy people and corporations’ pollution byproducts. For example, rising seawater from climate change is likely going to impact poor low-lying Pacific nations most, despite their very minimal contribution to the issue.

What Does Social Justice Look Like?

1. Human Rights

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) ensures that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights. They are provided with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1, UDHR, 1948)

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization founded in 1945, whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and security.

Today, the UN consists of 193 Member States. The Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, universal respect for and fulfil the international human rights and fundamental freedoms.

According to the UDHR everyone is entitled to their rights and freedoms, without distinction due to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. (UDHR, 1948)

Human Rights thus includes the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression and the right to work and education. Moreover, The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has defined a living wage as a basic human right under their conventions and recommendations to the UDHR.

A living wage means that the wage a worker earns in a standard working week is enough to provide for them and their family’s basic needs – including housing, food, education, and healthcare as well as some savings for when the unexpected happens. (Clean Clothes Campaign, 2014)

2. Right to Participation

Participation refers to how the people is given a voice and opportunity to express their opinions and concerns. Individuals needs to be able to participate in any decision-making that affects their livelihood and standard of living. (Corporate Finance Institute, 2022)

Social injustice occurs when a small group of individuals makes decisions for a larger group, without considering the people’s voice and opinion. (Corporate Finance Institute, 2022)

To achieve social justice the society needs to ensure equal opportunities, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disabilities etc. Moreover, guarantee access to political platforms and institutions for individuals to participate in decision-makings that affect their well-being.

3. Access to Resources

Access to resources is a key principle of social justice and refers to how different groups in society receive equal access to services such as healthcare, food, work, electricity, education and so forth.

To achieve social justice societies must offer a multitude of resources and services for their citizens, so that everyone gets an equal start in life. (Corporate Finance Institute, 2022)

However, unequal access to resources often exists, and the gap between high-income countries and low-income countries is still big.

According to the UN more than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, live in extreme poverty, struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation. Moreover, the economic gap between rural and urban areas is significant. Worldwide, the poverty rate is three times higher in rural areas than in urban areas. (United Nations, 2019)

4. Gender Equality

Gender equality refers to equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, wealthy, and sustainable world. 

According to the United Nations there has been progress over the last decades regarding gender equality:

“Fewer girls are forced into early marriage; more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership; and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality”. (United Nations, 2019, p. 32)

However, many challenges still exist. Discriminatory laws and norms are still applied, and women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership.

According to the organization UN Women, 30 percent of women worldwide who have ever been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse from an intimate partner. (p. 176)

Moreover, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a deeply troubling human-rights violation that affects at least 200 million women in the 30 countries where this is practiced (half of them in West Africa). (United Nations, 2019)

5. Food security

End hunger and ensure food security is a key factor for social justice. According to the World Food Programme, 135 million people suffer from acute hunger mainly due to man-made conflicts, climate change and economic downturns. (FSIN, 2020)

Despite earlier extensive progress, the number of people suffering from hunger has been increasing since 2014. Around 821 million people were undernourished in 2017, the same number as in 2010. (United Nations, 2019)

To create social justice worldwide attention needs to be given to increase sustainable agricultural productivity and guarantee incomes for small-scale food producers, implementing resilient agricultural practices.

Conclusion

Social Justice is a political theory that refers to a fair and equal division of resources, opportunities, human rights, and social privileges in a society.

Based on the ideas of the American political philosopher John Rawls, the international community has implemented social justice in its institutions, declarations, statements, and practices. The idea of people having equal rights and liberties is key to create social justice.

Human rights, right to participation, access to resources, gender equality and food security are all examples of important principles to achieve social justice.

An important step to create social justice worldwide is the actions of the United Nations and its Member States. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, governments and civil society all play a key role in monitoring and implementing practices for social justice.

Reference list

United Nations, (2006). Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Social Justice in an Open World: The Role of the United Nations, ST/ESA/305, United Nations Publication, New York.

Rawls, J. (2005). A theory of justice. Chicago: Belknap Press.

Ban Ki-moon (2010), UN statement on the World Day of Social Justice.

UNESCO (2019), Institute of Statistics, Education in Africa.

UDHR (1948), United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York: United Nations.

United Nations (2019), The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019, United Nations Publication, New York

UN Women (2019), Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020, ISBN: 978-1-63214-156-9, United States.

FSIN (2020), 2020 Global Report on Food Crises: Joint Analysis for Better Decisions.

Pernilla

Pernilla Stammler Jaliff (MSSc)

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Pernilla Stammler Jaliff has a master’s degree in Political Science and in Investigative Journalism. She has published several academic articles, and reports on human rights and sustainability for different NGOs. She also works independently as an investigative journalist writing articles on environmental issues such as the lithium and oil industry.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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