Give the meaning and characteristics of human rights.

Twentieth century has been described as the century of human rights because the concept of ‘Human Right’ became increasingly important in liberal-democratic, socialist countries and the underdeveloped countries. Virtually all states now subscribe officially to some doctrine of human rights. The term ‘Human Rights’ refers to the concept that every member of the human race has a set of basic claims simply by virtue of his humaneness. They are rights claimed in respect of all human beings. They are said to be universal rather than national and are different from legal rights.

Human rights means : 

  1. Rights that are inherent in and integral to every human being by the fact of his birth,
  2. Rights are basic for human life, and its development,
  3. Rights that presume the existence of those social conditions in which they can be exercised,
  4. Rights which every civilized state ought to incorporate in its constitution and laws as the recognition of basic human needs and demands.

United Nations Organization in 1948 to draft a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was followed by various UN covenants and conventions, and the European convention on Human Rights. The Declaration proclaimed a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It declared that all human beings are born free with equal dignity and rights and are, therefore entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, properly, birth or other states.

Human rights are related with two types :

  1. Civil and political rights,
  2. Economic, social and cultural rights.

The Civil and Political rights include right to life, liberty and security of persons, freedom from slavery and servitude, equal protection of law, right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty; Freedom of Movement, of thought conscience and religion; of opinion and expression; the right of association and assembly etc. right to participate in periodic free elections based on universal adult franchise.

The second set of socio-economic cultural rights include the right to social security to work to rest and leisure, to adequate standard of living, to education and to participate in the cultural life of the community. It also recognized that everyone is entitled to a social and international under in which these rights and freedoms may be fully realized.

But above all there is some criticism also on human rights. The question raise by the critique is how for human rights are justified ? Is the declaration of rights a statement of self-evident truths which requires no justification ? The opponents of human rights have dismissed these as no more the merely a set of prejudices. Previously the natural rights were justifies on the basis of natural law but the concept of human rights has been detached from natural law thinking. Contemporary political philosophers justify a case for human rights upon a commitment to fundamental values such as freedom, autonomy equality and human well being.

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