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Discuss the relevance of Social Contract theories in the making of ideas of Human Rights
Human rights are usually known to be something which is untransferable fundamental right and a person is naturally entitled to it just because they are a human being. Human rights are applicable everywhere no matter where a person lives in, what is his or her social status, educational background, colour, or even gender, it is same for everyone. The many basic ideas behind human right emerged after the second world war and of The Holocaust, which resulted in the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The people of earliest time was not familar with the concept of Human Right. The true forerunner of human rights dialogue was the notion of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval Natural law tradition that became well-known during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as Locke, Francis, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and featured highly in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
From this foundation, the modern human rights arguments emerged over the latter half of the twentieth century.<href=”#_ftn1″ name=”_ftnref1″ title=””>
“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…”
—1st sentence of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
History of concept
Although the idea of individual rights and freedom,concept of justice was present in the early age but they do not match the modern concept of human rights. The term has only become common during the 20th century. The idea of Human Right is not universal but by the emergence of 17th and 18th century European. The most generally held view is that concept of human rights emerged in the West, and that while earlier civilisations had important ethical concepts; they usulally did no idea to what human right is. For example, McIntyre argues there is no word for “right” in any language before 1400.<href=”#_ftn3″ name=”_ftnref3″ title=””>
During the 17th century in England, the protection of peoples right in political participation, religious belief against an oppressive government became advent of the English Revolution of 1640 which led to rebel leader Oliver Cromwell heading the government, and the King being put to death.
Towards the 18th century, according to philosopher John Locke, no one should harm anyone else regarding their life, health, and property, as this was the basic right given by God to every one. If someone violate this right then that individual can do anything to get his right back. This view also restricted the role of government as they can now have to rule by the consent of the people. This thinking underlay the American colonies’ Declaration of Independence in 1776.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
—United States Declaration of Independence, 1776
In the 19th century slavery became the main issue of human rights. William Wilberforce a reformer in Britain worked towards the end of slavery. This was achieved in the British Empire by the Slave Trade Act 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
The primary criticsm of human rights is that Human Rights are not universal. Some philosophers like Jeremy Bentham, Edmund Burke, Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx had criticised the concept of human rights. The American Anthropological Association in 1947 argued that right and wrong or good and evil are present in every community but what is considered good in one community can be considered evil in another.
Social Contract theory
The social contract theory originated during the Age of Enlightment. It is the belief that people by their will has given some of their freedom and submitted to their respective rulers or state to protect their other rights. Sometimes the right is bulit explicitly or even in tactic consent. Both natural rights and human rights are an aspect of social contract theory which many humanists are struggling to find the relation.
Classicial thought of social contract theory
· Thomas Hobbes:
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s was of the opinion that the birth of a social contract came because people for the sake of their own protection of their life and property entered into a social contract to govern or rule them. He held the view that every man was an enemy to other historically. Men were of selfish nature and always in conflict with his neighbours. He even wrote in his book Leviathan<href=”#_ftn4″ name=”_ftnref4″ title=””> that man has found nothing but grief over in the economy of his fellows. As a reult, by mutual consent they have given some of their freedom to one or more authority in order to have peace.<href=”#_ftn5″ name=”_ftnref5″ title=””>
· John Locke :
John Locke has differed from Thomas Hobbes in many ways matching only with the idea that it was humankind who willinglingly appointed an authority over them to rule. Locke believed that mankind in their state of nature was having an absolute freedom from rules and regulations. They coexsited peacefully with each other. As there was no recognized sysytem of law and justice, some blacksheeps tried to take avantage of this opportunity which disrupted the peace and harmony enjoyed by men and turned into fear and insecurity. In order to gain security and certainty mankind entered into the social contract.
· Jean Jacques Rousseau :
The French writer Roussea in his well known book The Social Contract<href=”#_ftn6″ name=”_ftnref6″ title=””> gave a different form of social contract theory. He wrote that mankind into its natural being was a noble savage and led a life of simplicity and happiness. They were independent, satisfied, self-sufficient, healthy, unafraid and good. They were united only on the basis of sympathy towards each other. They neither knew what is right and worng and was free from the idea of virtue. But as the population expanded the life of simplicity and happiness ended. Men began to become selfish in nature knowing only their own benefits and rights. When equality and happiness of the early state was lost, war, murder, conflicts became normal. As a result social contract theory was formed.
Human rights violation take place when any state or non state breakes any part of the UDHR treaty or other international human rights or humanitarian law. United Nations law is the one and only tribunal that may conclude UN human rights violations.
Human rights abuses are controlled by United Nations committees, national institutions and governments and by many independent NGO , such as Amnesty International, World Organiation Against Torture, International Freedom of Expression Exchange. These organizatins gather documentation of questionable human rights abuses and exert pressure to perform human right laws.
Depending on various cultures and traditions, some people still do not follow human rights rules which has resulted in many internatonal conflicts. For example, female circumcision is occurring in many parts of the continent including Africa, Asia and South America. The irony is that this is not a part of a religion, but rather a custom which has been going on for so long promoting chastity and fidelity. It is thought to be a violation of women’s and girls right by much of the international community<href=”#_ftn7″ name=”_ftnref7″ title=””>.
In Bangladesh, for example the recent tragedy that took place in Rana Plaza where more than thousand garment employees died, many were disabled with broken legs and hands was the most extreme form of human rights violation. It was due to the factory owners providing poor working conditions which has led the building to be collapsed. Numerous workers in the building were reluctant to enter the premises on the morning before the collapse, but did so after being told the building was safe or after alleged threats from company officials. <href=”#_ftn8″ name=”_ftnref8″ title=””>
In Syria, there has been numerous and serious violations of human rights. The scale and frequency of gross human rights violations in Syria has significantly increased in recent weeks, according to a new report by the United Nations Syria has seen the death of 19000 of its civilian including many children, women old aged people in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad began some 18 months ago.<href=”#_ftn9″ name=”_ftnref9″ title=””>
Only a very few countries do not violate significant human rights. For example, Netherland, Denmark, Norway, Costa Rica and Iceland. They are the few exceptions that have not faced accusations of human right crime.
Though it is so apparent, there are some missing rights which people do no speak about as they do not bother the common people. Rights regarding Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual Trans gender rights. The issues of same sex marriage, gay adoption and protecton from dicrimination are also part of human rights. There are some organiations who fight for these causes but it is hard to find and agree as this questions are considered as ambigous.<href=”#_ftn10″ name=”_ftnref10″ title=””>
After being working on this project of Human Rights and relevance of Social Contract theories in making the idea of Human rights, I believe that human rights are very important even in todays world. During the dark age people were brutal, aggressive, uneducated did not knew how to act justly and give others their right. They were in constant wars for so petty things. But even today in many parts of the world we see violation of human rights which is not fair. There are many discrimination going on regarding colour, ethnicity and also most importantly gender discrimination. In many villages young girls are not accessed to education and are being married off before maturity. Their parents do not even ask for their approval. It is very common in Bangladesh as well as in India and other African countries. Human Right activities need to address this issue more effectively so we can see an end to this problem. Another major issue is how the political parties sometimes misuse their power which was given to them by their own citizen and work against its ow citizens life, property health etc. They are not even charged for these things as they are sitting on theit political throne. But each and every Human Right violater has to be punished otherwise we will not see an end of corruption especially in the third world countries.
Human rights are universal since the reciprocal basic natural duties establised by the social contract are general in their application to all people and at all times. However, the manifestation of these rights and duties will vary from civilization to civilization, since the degree of knowledge and understanding of these duties and rights will vary and the expression of these duties and rights will be exhibited according each society’s history and culture and the sense of justice of different people. Nonetheless, the underlying principle are the same everywhere and at all times. Human right are foreign to no culture and native to all nations, and it is the universality of human rights that gives them their strength.
· Chanez. ( 2009, February 28) [Supplement material] Human rights as a social contract. Retrieved from http://chanezportfolio.blogspot.com/2009/02/human-rights-as-social-contract.html
· Endsjø, Dag Øistein (2005). “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and the religious relativism of human rights”. Human Rights Review 6:2 (2): 102–10. doi:10.1007/s12142-005-1020-1
· Hobbes,T.(1651)Leviathan: England
· Rousseau, J.J.(1762).The Social Contract : France
· April 25, 2013 [Supplement material] Bangladesh tragedy shows urgency of workers protection. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/25/bangladesh-tragedy-shows-urgency-worker-protections
· (2012, September 17) [Supplement material] Magnitude of human rights violations in Syria has dramatically increased – UN panel Retrieved from <href=”#.UbzW7Pk9GSq”>http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42909#.UbzW7Pk9GSq
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UN General Assembly. December 10, 1948. 217 A (III) [Accessed June 13 2013]
Hobbes,T.(1651)Leviathan: England from Chapter XIII
http://www.sociologyguide.com/individual-society/social-contract-theory.php [Accessed June 15]
Rousseau, J.J.(1762).The Social Contract : France
Chanez. ( 2009, February 28) [Supplement material] Human rights as a social contract. Retrieved from http://chanezportfolio.blogspot.com/2009/02/human-rights-as-social-contract.html [Accessed on 15/6/2013]
April 25, 2013 [Supplement material] Bangladesh tragedy shows urgency of workers protection. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/25/bangladesh-tragedy-shows-urgency-worker-protections [Accessed June 15 2013]
(2012, September 17) [Supplement material] Magnitude of human rights violations in Syria has dramatically increased – UN panel Retrieved from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42909#.UbzW7Pk9GSq
<href=”#_ftnref10″ name=”_ftn10″ title=””> Endsjø, Dag Øistein (2005). “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and the religious relativism of human rights”. Human Rights Review 6:2 (2): 102–10. doi:10.1007/s12142-005-1020-1