In law, human rights is the idea that all people should have rights:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Today, the principles are protected as legal rights in national and international law. They are seen as universal, which means they are meant for everyone, no matter what their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex (also women's rights), political beliefs (or any other kind of beliefs), intelligence, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity are.
Every person has all of these rights, it is not possible to only grant some of them:
All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and related. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis.—Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, World Conference on Human Rights, 1993
The idea of human rights originated from ideas found in religion and philosophy in Western Europe. The modern Western idea of human rights started in the European Enlightenment. In the 16th century, some people started suggesting that everyone had the religious and political right to choose their religion and their leaders. This sort of thinking was important in the English Civil War. After the war, the philosopher John Locke argued that people should have these rights; he was one of the first people to call them "human rights." These ideas were also important in the American revolution and the French revolution in the 18th century.
In the 19th century, John Stuart Mill was an important philosopher who also thought about human rights. He said that people should be able to control their own bodies and minds. He talked about three special ideas:
- freedom of speech
- freedom of assembly
- freedom to do what a person wishes if it does not harm others (even if other people think it is bad)
Hegel was a philosopher who talked about the idea of free will. He also talked about what makes a person free: that a person has to have certain relations with other people to have true freedom. A person has to be able to:
- own property
- make contracts with other people
- make moral promises to people
- live with anyone
- get protection from laws
- have a voice in government
Because people believe that human rights are important, countries make laws to protect them. These laws say that governments cannot take away people's basic rights. They make sure people who take away other people's rights are punished.
Some major political organizations have made statements that promote human rights. These are not laws, but they affect us anyway. If groups or countries do not follow these statements, others will condemn them (say that they are very bad); and then people may not talk with them, do business with them, or help them.
In 1948 the United Nations made the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a widely respected document that says what the United Nations believes are human rights. It is not a law, but is the basis on which two important agreements are written:
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
These are United Nations human rights Covenants: agreements between people or countries. The countries who sign these two covenants agree to follow them.
In addition to those Declaration and Covenants, there are many treaties and documents made by United Nations and other international organizations. Those treaties and documents are called "International human rights law".
List of human rights
Not everyone agrees on what the basic human rights are. It is very clear that few countries permit all these rights. Also, there are countries in which the rights are not illegal, but nothing is done to promote them. Here is a list of some of the most recognized rights:
- Safety from violence
- To seek asylum if a country treats you badly
- Fair trial, and to be considered innocent until proven guilty
General life freedoms
- The right to get an education
- Health care (medical care)
- To believe and practice the religion a person wants
- Right to marriage and family
- Equality of both males and females; women's rights
- Not be forced into marriage
- The right to express his or her sexual orientation
- The right to express oneself: free speech
- To vote
- To peacefully protest (speak against) a government or group
- To petition
Abuse means to intentionally harm a person or people physically, mentally, emotionally, or verbally once or many times. Human rights abuse follows along similarly, also keeping in count the universal rights. Human rights abuse happens when a person is hurt in a way that violates (goes against) his/her human rights. Human rights abuses are also often called human rights violations.
- Examples of human rights abuses or violations are:
- Putting a person in jail because they said that the government is doing bad things, or because they are religious or not religious.
- Taking a person's home because they are from a different country
- Not letting someone who is a citizen of a country vote because he or she has the "wrong" kind of attribute as mentioned on top of article.
- Violence toward someone because they have a (or any) religion, or a different religion to the one of the abuser.
Many people, groups, and countries think protecting human rights is very important. But not everyone in the world believes in human rights. If people who do not believe in human rights have political power they can hurt many people. Even if these people have no political power, they can be violent to other people. There are many people who work to protect everyone's human rights; some of these are government groups, and some are not with any government. They are sometimes called human rights organizations. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are examples of human rights organizations.
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