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Bitcoin As A Human Rights Platform

As we approach Human Rights Day on December 10, 2022, it is important to consider human rights and how Bitcoin
is being used as a platform to protect human rights for various communities around the world.

According to Freedom House, approximately 2.977 billion people live under authoritarian regimes. If you live in a free economy where your rights are protected, you have access to financial services, and your national currency is relatively stable, you most likely consider Bitcoin to be another speculative asset or store of value.

The privacy of financial transactions is eroding as transactions rapidly shift from cash to the digital world, which requires strict know your customer (KYC) procedures to be onboarded. You have a right to privacy and a private life under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12), the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 8), and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 7). How does traditional finance violate your right to privacy, and how does Bitcoin address this?

“Without financial privacy, you don’t have political rights.” In his podcast, Andreas M. Antonopoulos described how a group of Chinese protesters were tracked down for using their subway cards while protesting. They had learned a hard lesson about financial privacy during the previous protest, so they wore masks and paid for subway tickets with cash on the subsequent one.

Though quite controversial, JPMorgan Chase
deplatformed Kanye West last week without giving a reason. While this is big news that this is happening in the US, a third of the world living in authoritarian regimes face this more frequently than you would think.

The role of Bitcoin as freedom money was best demonstrated during the freedom convoy, when the Canadian government froze donations to protestors channeled through traditional financial institutions controlled or regulated by the state. Because the government couldn’t control, ban, block, or confiscate Bitcoin sent directly to protestors, they had to rely on Bitcoin donations to continue exercising their political rights.

By acting as a store of value that governments cannot inflate away through central bank monetary expansion, Bitcoin grants people the right to own property. Due to corruption and irresponsible borrowing, a large number of frontier and emerging economies are heavily indebted. To keep up with dollar-denominated debt repayments, they print more of their currencies, inflating them and effectively stealing value from their citizens who hold savings.

For instance, in Nigeria, after heavily devaluing the Naira, the government implemented policies to limit capital flight such as $20 monthly limits to its citizenry. To protect their value from central bank printing, a lot of Nigerians have resorted to Bitcoin as a store of value and as a means to transact internationally thereby bypassing the US dollar limits.

Bitcoin protects your freedom to transact. You can send and receive value to anyone, anywhere as long as they have an internet-connected device or a feature phone, as Machankura in Africa pioneered. Machankura’s platform, which is currently available in nine African countries, enables Africans to send and receive Bitcoin using the lightning network without the need for an internet connection. On both feature phones and smartphones, it employs an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service.

Authoritarian regimes can use a wide range of individual or societal characteristics to justify freezing your bank account or discriminating against you. Religion, skin color, sexual orientation, political views, country of birth, Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) opinions, and many other factors may be considered.

Bitcoin does not discriminate and provides a level playing field for all. Because the traditional financial system easily allows such regimes to overreach and freeze their funds, dissidents fighting against the evils of authoritarian regimes find Bitcoin as a platform for exercising their rights and freedoms.

Bitcoin gives you the right to free movement since it is borderless. If you need to cruise through borders of different countries with your money, there is often a large number of bottlenecks that you have to beat including forex risks while Bitcoin allows you to move seamlessly.

According to Anita Porsch, founder Bitcoin For Fairness, 75 economies in the world limit women’s rights to manage assets. This varies from women’s inability to own or inherit property due to their countries’ laws and cultures. Bitcoin allows these women to own Bitcoin secretly and use it as a collateral for loans.

Disclosure: I own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

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