There is no single set of universal human rights, but a vast body of international law protects a variety of individuals’ fundamental rights. The human rights treaties that govern international law are continually amended and reinterpreted, and the UN General Assembly has adopted several human rights conventions. While these conventions provide broad protection for individuals, they often fail to recognize the specific needs of women. Many women’s rights are threatened by violence, sex discrimination, and economic inequalities.
The Declaration of Independence asserts that humans are endowed with certain “natural rights” by a Creator. This means that they are entitled to freedom and to well-being, and that they are entitled to these rights and protections. Ultimately, though, these abstract rights are only valuable if they are consistent with the rule of law. Nevertheless, this isn’t enough. Human rights must be protected under a system of laws that guarantees their effectiveness.
While the twentieth century has been an important time for the codification of human rights, many of their principles have existed for centuries. Wisdom literature, traditional values, and religious teachings address questions of duty and responsibility. The Hindu Vedas, Bible, Quran, and Analects of Confucius all address questions of duty and responsibility. In Native American countries, the Inca and Aztec codes of conduct, as well as the Iroquois constitution, reflect these values.
In addition to these fundamental principles, human rights are also defined in terms of their political function. They are norms that govern useful political behavior. They can be used to protect urgent human interests and specify the permissible use of economic and military intervention. For example, in Iceland, stateless people are protected by human rights. These rights are not settled by definition. They must be determined by the circumstances. In the event of an asteroid strike, there might be no other state in the world, and so on.
What is the definition of human rights? It is a set of principles that govern the conduct of nations. States must comply with these norms or their citizens’ rights may be violated. Human rights are based on cultural and ethnic differences. People of different countries have different religions, cultures, and levels of economic and political development. In other words, a country’s legal system cannot guarantee them the same rights as another. Therefore, human rights must be defined in terms of what they include, and their violation can lead to human rights violations and oppression.
Rawls, on the other hand, advocates a more limited list of human rights. While he accepts the definition given by Gewirth and Griffin, he believes that human rights are a special class of urgent rights. In his view, these rights are plural. In addition, Rawls focused on a smaller project than Gewirth and Griffin, international human rights serve as the basis for the normative structure of the international system.