KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia still holds to the concept of "hierarchy of human beings", where some are deemed superior to others, says Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
The social activist and human rights campaigner said some humans are considered superior to others, simply due to their race, religion or gender.
"There are people who even consider sexual diversity irrelevant.
"To classify a section of humanity, even if small, as irrelevant is a living example of the type of thinking that once considered some human beings as rats and cockroaches.
"When that thinking sets in and becomes widespread, violence towards the so-called inferior ones is accepted or at least ignored," she said in her speech during the Human Rights Day celebration on Tuesday (Dec 10).
Marina said women, children and sexual minorities are abused or even killed, but such crimes or incidents are quickly forgotten.
Marina said that even former colonisers have "moved on" and are trying to make amends and changes, by embracing diversity as a necessity.
"We are sticking to pre-Victorian and Victorian era norms, believing that these rules are not only wholly ours, they have divine origins.
"When will we ever be truly free if we are still shackled by the values, rules and laws that our former colonial masters handed down to us?" she said.
Marina said companies, organisations, schools, and universities are trying to ensure that their workforce, strategies and curricula reflect the reality of their societies today.
Marina said from her personal experience of living and studying in the United Kingdom over the past year, it showed there is a great movement to recolonise university texts so that literature and creative writing students do not only study books written by white Western writers.
"The same is true of the publishing world that now seeks black, Asian and Middle-Eastern writers, because these are voices and perspectives that have only rarely been heard and read.
"Histories have to be written also from the point of view of those who were subjugated, for their standpoints to have equal value as previous ones.
"This recognition of equality of perspectives is a slow-going process, there is still much resistance to it, but it underscores the fact that every human being has equal value and equally matters," she said.
Marina said human rights are universal and the work of human rights defenders is to ensure that those who are unable to enjoy their full rights are able to do so.
"People who are demanding their rights are not demanding more rights than others, they are simply asking for the same rights as other human beings," she added.