A right means a claim or power to do something or, to have (acquire) and own something, that is considered to be necessary for an individual to live with dignity as a human being and a member of mankind. Such claims or powers are known as, ‘Human Rights.
Definitions of Human Rights
(1) Justice M.H Beg – “Human Rights imply justice, equality, and freedom from arbitrary and discriminatory treatment”.
(2) Justice Nagendra Singh of the International Court of Justice opined that respect for the human personality and its absolute worth, regardless of color, race, sex is the very foundation of Human Rights.
(3) Justice Durga Das Basu —” Human rights are those minimal rights, which every individual must have against the State, or other public authority, under his being a member of the human family, irrespective of caste, color, creed, place of birth, sex, cultural differences, or any other consideration”.
(4) Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 has defined the term — “Human Rights means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforced by courts in India”.
Nature and Concept of Human Rights
The concept of human rights is based on the belief that every human being is entitled to enjoy her/his rights without discrimination. Human rights differ from other rights in two respects. Firstly, they are characterized by being:
- Inherent in all human beings by virtue of their humanity alone (they do not have, e.g., to be purchased or to be granted);
- Inalienable (within qualified legal boundaries); and
- Equally applicable to all.
Secondly, the main duties deriving from human rights fall on states and their authorities or agents, not on individuals. One important implication of these characteristics is that human rights must themselves be protected by law (‘the rule of law’). Furthermore, any disputes about these rights should be submitted for adjudication through a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, applying procedures that ensure full equality and fairness to all the parties and determining the question following clear, specific, and pre-existing laws, known to the public and openly declared.
Generation’s of Human Rights
- First generation human rights are civil and political rights with two main sub-categories of political liberties such as freedom of expression, conscience and beliefs, association and assembly as well as political participation in one’s society. The second sub-category includes physical and civil security that proscribe torture, slavery, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrests and equality before the law. These rights mainly emphasize on individual liberties that enable free participation in political and civic life. These protect individuals from potential abuse by the state in the main.
- Second generation human rights are socio-economic rights mainly compelling government to meet or create conditions for the fulfilment of some basic needs to enhance human dignity. These require the government to affirmatively provide social-economic necessities such as shelter, health, clean water, education and social infrastructure.
- Third generation human rights are mainly on collective developmental rights which in some literature is referred to as solidarity rights of people and groups. These include self-determination, environmental laws, humanitarian assistance, right to peace, rights of linguistic and cultural communities. This category also emphasizes sustainable development and rights of future generations.
With the evolution of new technologies that range from genetic engineering to artificial intelligence as well as current trends of fusing human and technological capacities, there is an evolving complex discourse on the possibility of fourth-generation human rights to deal with ethical and developmental implications of current and exponentially developing technologies.
The Seven Core International Human Rights Treaties
Seven international human rights treaties are considered to be the ‘core international human rights treaties and elaborate on the rights set out in the UDHR. They are signed by states, thereby creating binding obligations. These seven include:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966.
- International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 1965.
- Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979.
- Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) 1984.
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989.
- International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) 1990.
Each of these treaties has a committee of experts to monitor the implementation of the treaty provisions. Some of the treaties are supplemented by optional protocols that give the committees power to deal with specific concerns and adjudicate complaints by individuals. The sky is the limit. The scope of Human Rights encompasses the entire spectrum of human life of the right to live with dignity. No UN Charter or Constitution of any country defines the term Human Rights. They are only listed in the various UN Charters and Constitutions of several States. Their sweep is expanding continuously by the human rights organizations (HROs) and the Courts of law dealing with their enforcement. The term Human Rights came into usage when on December l0, l948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The preamble of the Charter states inter alia ‘whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. Whereas it is essential if the man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by rule of law’.
How are human rights enforced?
The international community has weak mechanisms of enforcement, although these usually exist at the national level. At the international level, UN mechanisms (special bodies created by human rights treaties, or special structures within the UN system) can exercise political pressure. The UN Security Council may decide on the use of force, and the recently created International Criminal Court provides certain mechanisms for judicial enforcement. Still, enforcement is largely a function of the State. Accountability for human rights can be demanded through different mechanisms, including not only the judiciary but also public audits, independent commissions, parliamentary processes, etc.
What happens if human rights contradict cultural norms in society?
As legal norms, human rights have traditionally contradicted some of the existing cultural values of societies, particularly on the distribution of privileges and punishments. Cultures are not static, they can change – and generally, they do. Human Rights are legal norms that can guide certain changes in social, political, and cultural arrangements; changes that are necessary to minimize abuses of power. Generally, human rights protect the rights of groups to retain their own cultural, religious, and social practices. Only some cultural practices contradict human rights. Indeed, claims of ‘cultural relativism’ are often used as a justification to deny human rights. The same countries whose governments denounce human rights as a ‘Western’ imposition may have vibrant human rights movements at the grassroots level. Denials of human rights also occur in Western societies. ‘Relativist’ discourses on human rights deny the possibility of universal norms on how human beings should be treated. Such discourses would affirm that, whereas human rights may be relevant for some countries and cultures, they are not necessarily so for others. However, this argument is flawed in the sense that there are no ‘Chinese’ or ‘French’ human beings; there are human beings, period (as opposed to, for instance, whales) and Chinese or French citizens or nationals. Indeed, nationalist, ethnic, or class interests can prevail over human rights only if human beings are no longer considered as such. ‘Relativism’ of human rights should then be assessed by those who have the right, not by those who are in the obligation to respond. It is however true that the human rights discourse has been largely dominated by the West, with the consequence that some dimensions (such as ‘individual freedoms’ and ‘State obligations’) are highlighted more than others (such as ‘collective rights’ or ‘individual responsibilities’). This bias limits human rights effectiveness. In the view of it, the cultural debate can play a constructive role in human rights, rather than a destructive one. Because they highlight important dimensions for the realization of human rights, active participation of non-Western cultures is essential to strengthening human rights – as shown by the drafting of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, or the African Charter on Human Rights and People’s Rights.
Human Rights and Constitution of India
The Rights and Fundamental Rights are sections of the Constitution of India that provide people with their rights. These Fundamental Rights are considered basic human rights of all citizens, irrespective of their gender, caste, religion, or creed. etc. These sections are the vital elements of the constitution, which was developed between 1947 and 1949 by the Constitution of India.
There are six fundamental rights in India. They are Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights, and Right to Constitutional Remedies.
India had signed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights on January 01, 1942. Part III of the Constitution India ‘also referred to as Magna Carta contains the Fundamental rights. These are the rights that are directly enforceable against the state in case of any violation. Article 13(2) prohibits the state from making any law in violation of the Fundamental Rights. It always provides that if a part of the law made is against the Fundamental Rights, that part would be declared as void. If the void part cannot be separated from the main act, the whole act may be declared void.
In the case of Keshvanand Bharti v. the State of Kerela, the apex court observed: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights may not be a legally binding instrument but it shows how India understood the nature of human rights at the time the Constitution was adopted.”
In the case of Chairman, Railway Board & Ors. v. Chandrima Das & Ors., it was observed that UDHR has been recognized as Model code of conduct adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The principles may have to be read if needed in domestic jurisprudence.
Therefore, The main objective of human rights lies at the heart of the United Nations, or we said that is the mission part of the United Nations for emphasizing some basic needs for everyone. Along with that life in freedom, security, and prosperity is amongst the main right under this for the motive of welfares of society at large. It basically provides the hopes of millions of people for life with freedom, security, and prosperity. The principles discussed in UDHR has the same value today as it was on the day it was adopted.
“ In the Universal Universal Declaration Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has stated in clear and simple terms the rights which belong equally to every person.
These rights belong to you.
They are your rights.
Familiarize yourself with them
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