What are the human rights issues in the novel Atonement?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The first human rights issue in the novel Atonement by Ian McEwan has to do with the age of consent. In most societies, it is forbidden to have sexual relations with children below a certain age. In this case, however, we have a sexually charged environment involving Briony (who is not actually sexually active but is struggling with her nascent sexuality), the sixteen-year old Lola, and Briony's sister Celia. Robbie, at the time is 20. Thus the first human right we can see is the right of children to be free of sexual predators.

The next human right is that of all people to a fair trial, and of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Given that Briony did not see the assailant and that Lola will not corroborate the identification, Robbie should not have gone to jail. Here we also have a violation of the concept of equality before the law, as the higher social class of the accuser and victim seemed to play a part in jailing of Robbie on flimsy evidence. 

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