Explained: What are Human Rights and what are their types?

This article precisely describes Human Rights, their characteristics, types, international human rights conventions and bodies, and human rights in India.
Created On: Jul 30, 2021 19:56 IST
Modified On: Jul 30, 2021 20:12 IST
Explained: What are Human Rights and what are their types?
Explained: What are Human Rights and what are their types?

Nelson Mandela rightly said, "To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity." But, what are these rights, who granted them and why do activists fight for them?

What are Human Rights?

In a bid to live with dignity, we humans are entitled to certain basic rights and freedoms. These are not granted by any state but are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recognises life, liberty, equality and dignity as human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, was the first legal document to set out the fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Even after 72 years, it continues to be the foundation of all international human rights law.

Human Rights Day

It is observed every year on December 10. On this day, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948.  

Characteristics of Human Rights

1- Human rights are universal and inalienable. This means that we all are equally entitled to our human rights and they must not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For instance, a criminal can be denied the Right to Liberty. 

2- They are indivisible and interdependent. This implies that one set of rights cannot be enjoyed fully without the other. For instance, if our Social or Civil Human Rights are violated, it will impact other rights as well such as Political or Cultural Human Rights

3- These are equal and non-discriminatory as all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. For instance, one cannot be given priority over others. 

Types of Human Rights

As guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Human Rights can be classified as:

Social or Civil Human Rights

Each one of us is entitled to:

a. Right to life, liberty and security
b. Right to freedom from slavery and servitude
c. Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
d. Right to freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence
e. Right to marry and have family and right to property

Political Human Right

To take part in political processes, each one of us is entitled to:

a. Right to nationality
b. Right to equality before the law and equal protection of law
c. Right to judicial remedies, fair trial and freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
d. Right to freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, conscience and religion
e. Right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
f. Right to take part in government affairs and equal access to public service
g. Right to equal suffrage
h. Right to freedom of movement and right of asylum etc.

Economic Human Rights

Each one of us is entitled to certain economic human rights:

a. Right to social security
b. Right to work and the right to equal pay for equal work
c. Right to form trade unions
d. Right to rest and leisure
e. Right to food, health and an adequate standard of living

Cultural Human Rights

To protect different cultures, customs, and traditions, we are entitled to:

a. Right to participate in the cultural life of the community
b. Right to enjoy the art and to share in the scientific advancement and its benefits
c. Right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary and artistic production of which the individual is the author
d. Right to a social and international order in which the human rights as provided in the Universal Declaration can be fully realized

International Human Rights Conventions and Bodies:

1- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) lists 30 rights and freedoms such as civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights. India took an active part in the drafting of the UDHR.

UDHR along with  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol, form the International Bill of Human Rights.

2- India is a party to many human rights conventions such as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), among others.

3- Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system. It is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights. The Council is made up of 47 Member States elected by the UN General Assembly. 

Through its Universal Periodic Review, the Council reviews human rights records of all 192 Member States once every four years. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) serves as its secretariat.

4- Amnesty International is an international organization run by volunteers who campaign for human rights. The organization publishes independent reports on the violation of human rights all over the world. 

Human Rights in India

As guaranteed by the Indian Constitution

The Constitution of India incorporates most of the rights enumerated in the UDHR in two parts-- the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy. 

Fundamental Rights: Articles 12-35 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural & Educational Rights, Saving of Certain Laws and Right to Constitutional Remedies.

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP): Articles 36-51 of the Indian Constitution guarantees Right to Social Security, Right to Work, Right to Free Choice of Employment, and Protection Against Unemployment, Right to Equal Pay for Equal Work, Right to Existence Worthy of Human Dignity, Right to Free and Compulsory Education, Right to Equal Justice and Fee Legal Aid and the principles of policy to be followed by the State. 

Law in India

Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (as amended in 2019) provided for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission at the Centre to steer State Human Rights Commission in States and Human Rights Courts for better protection of Human Rights and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Instituted in 1993 as per the provisions of the Human Rights Act, 1993 which was amended in 2019, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an independent statutory body that acts as a watchdog of human rights in India. 

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): Structure, Powers, Composition and Limitations

Human Rights Day: Current Theme, History, Significance and Key Facts

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