Human rights are a set of principles and standards that protect people from abuse by governments and other powerful groups. These include the right to freedom, equality and dignity. Almost every culture in the world recognises these fundamental principles. It is generally recognised that people cannot lose these rights, but that in particular circumstances some – though not all – may be suspended or restricted, for example if a person is convicted of a crime.
In most cases, the protection of human rights depends on the existence of laws and other structures in place to prevent and punish violations. If a government does not respect and protect its citizens, people can call on international bodies such as the UN to intervene. The UN consists of a group of member states which are committed to protecting human rights and promoting peace, security and development.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a document that sets out basic human rights. Its creation was prompted by the horrors of WWII and it is intended to be a guide for governments and organisations dealing with human rights. By defining what constitutes a human right, it allows people to stand up against injustices.
People have a range of rights that are essential to their survival and well-being, including the right to life, freedom and security. Some of these rights are universal, while others apply to certain groups in society such as women, children, the disabled and LGBT individuals. By putting a focus on these groups, it is easier to identify when their rights are being violated and to make progress towards improving the situation.
Some people believe that human rights are innate and natural, arising from the very fact of being a person. These are called ‘natural rights’ and they have been described as a “core human need”. While this view provides an attractive basis for a belief in human rights, it is difficult to sustain on a practical level. Billions of people do not believe in a god that would prescribe rights for them, and persuading these individuals to accept a rights-supporting theological view is likely to be a very long and difficult task.
Other people believe that human rights are the result of historical experiences. These experiences include the oppression of Jewish populations in Europe, and the use of the death penalty in the USA during the wartime. By providing a history of human rights violations, this theory enables people to identify and remember past injustices and to press for action at a global level.
It is also important to note that human rights are indivisible and interdependent. A violation of one right inevitably leads to a breach of other rights. For example, if a person’s right to freedom of movement is denied, this will usually lead to the denial of their rights to health and education. For this reason, human rights are often interlinked and can only be fulfilled when all of them are in place.