What Are Human Rights?

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

International Human Rights Law

International human rights law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups. One of the great achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law—a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire. The United Nations has defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It has also established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and to assist states in carrying out their responsibilities.

The foundations of this body of law are the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1945 and 1948, respectively. Since then, the United Nations has gradually expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups, who now possess rights that protect them from discrimination that had long been common in many societies.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

Who has a responsibility to protect human rights?

  • Human rights connect us to each other through a shared set of rights and responsibilities
  • A person’s ability to enjoy their human rights depends on other people respecting those rights. This means that human rights involve responsibility and duties towards other people and the community.
  • Individuals have a responsibility to ensure that they exercise their rights with consideration for the rights of others. For example, when someone uses their right to freedom of speech, they should do so without interfering with someone else’s right to privacy.
  • Governments have a particular responsibility to ensure that people are able to enjoy their rights. They are required to establish and maintain laws and services that enable people to enjoy a life in which their rights are respected and protected. For example, the right to education says that everyone is entitled to a good education. This means that governments have an obligation to provide good quality education facilities and services to their people.
  • Whether or not governments actually do this, it is generally accepted that this is the government's responsibility and people can call them to account if they fail to respect or protect their basic human rights.

Why are human rights important?

Values of tolerance, equality and respect can help reduce friction within society. Putting human rights ideas into practice can helps us create the kind of society we want to live in.

In recent decades, there has been a tremendous growth in how we think about and apply human rights ideas. This has had many positive results - knowledge about human rights can empower individuals and offer solutions for specific problems. Human rights are an important part of how people interact with others at all levels in society - in the family, the community, schools, the workplace, in politics and in international relations. It is vital therefore that people everywhere should strive to understand what human rights are. When people better understand human rights, it is easier for them to promote justice and the well-being of society.

Meaning of Human Rights

Human Beings are rational beings. They by virtue of their being human possess certain basic and inalienable rights which are commonly known as human rights. Human Rights are defined as all those rights which are essential for the protection and maintenance of dignity of individuals and create conditions in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest extent may be termed as human rights.

Human rights become operative with the birth of an individual. Human rights, being the birth right, are inherent in all the individuals irrespective of their caste, religion, sex and nationality.

Because of their immense significance to human beings ; human rights are also sometimes referred to as fundamental rights, basic rights, inherent rights, natural rights and birth rights.

The World conference On Human Rights held in 1993 in Vienna stated in the Declaration that all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person , and that the human person is the central subject of human rights and fundamental rights.

Types of Human Rights :

  • All human beings are born free and equal and should be treated the same way.

    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood

    1. Individual (civil) rights

    Life, liberty, and security of the person; privacy and freedom of movement; ownership of property; freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice; prohibition of slavery, torture, and cruel or degrading punishment.

    2.Rights of communities

    Self-determination and protection of minority cultures.

    3.Rule of law

    Equal recognition before the law and equal protection of the law; effective legal remedy for violation of rights; impartial hearing and trial; presumption of innocence; and prohibition of arbitrary arrest.

    4.Rights of political expression

    Freedom of expression, assembly, and association; the right to take part in government; and periodic and meaningful elections with universal and equal suffrage.

    5.Economic and social rights

    An adequate standard of living; free choice of employment; protection against unemployment; "just and favorable remuneration"; the right to form and join trade unions; "reasonable limitation of working hours"; free elementary education; social security; and the "highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."

  • Everyone can claim their rights regardless of sex, race, language, religion, social standing, etc.

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

  • Everyone has the right to life and to live in freedom and safety.

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

  • No one has the right to treat you as a slave nor should you enslave anyone.

    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

  • No one has the right to torture you.

    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • You should be legally protected in the same way everywhere like anyone else.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

  • The law is the same for everyone and should be applied in the same manner to all.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

  • You have the right to obtain legal help and access the justice system when your rights are not respected.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

  • No one can arrest or detain you arbitrarily , or send you away from your country unjustly..

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile

  • Trials should be public and tried in a fair manner by an impartial and independent tribunal.

    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him

  • You are considered innocent until it can be proved you are guilty according to law. If accused of a crime you have the right to a defence.

    1. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

    2. One shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

  • You have the right to protection if someone tried to harm your good name, enter your home without permission or interfere with your correspondence.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks

  • You have the right to leave or move within your own country and you should be able to return.

    1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

    2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

  • If you are persecuted at home, you have the right to seek protection in another country.

    1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

    2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

  • You have the right to belong to a country and have a nationality.

    1. Everyone has the right to a nationality. 2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

  • Men and women have the right to marry when they are legally able without limits due to race, nationality or religion. Families should be protected by the Government and the justice system.

    1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

    2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

    3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

  • You have the right to own things. No one has the right to illegally take them from you.

    1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

    2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property

  • Everyone has the right to freely manifest their religion, to change it and to practice it alone or with others.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

  • Everyone has the right to think and say what they like and no one should forbid it.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek receive and impart information and ideas though any media and regardless of frontiers.

  • You have the right to organize and participate in peaceful meetings.

    1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

    2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

  • Everyone has the right to take part in their country’s political affairs and equal access to public service. Governments should be voted for regularly.

    1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

    2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

    3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secrete vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

  • Society should help individuals to freely develop and make the most of all advantages offered in their country.

    Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

  • Everyone has the right to work in just and favourable conditions and be free to choose your work with a salary that allows you to live and support family. Everyone should receive equal pay for equal work.

    1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

    2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

    3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

    4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

  • Each work day should not be too long and everyone has the right to rest and take regular paid holidays.

    Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

  • You have the right to have what you need so that you and your family do not go hungry, homeless or fall ill.

    1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including foods, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

  • You have the right to go to school, continue your studies as far as you wish and learn regardless of race, religion or country of origin

    1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

    2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

    3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

  • You have the right to share the benefits of your community’s culture, arts and sciences.

    1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

    2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

  • To make sure your rights are respected, there must be an order that can protect them. This order should be global.

    Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

  • You have duties toward the community within which your personality can fully develop. The law should guarantee human rights. It should allow everyone to respect others and to be respected.

    1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

    2. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

    3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

  • No one, institution nor individual, should act in any way to destroy the rights enshrined in the UDHR

    Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.