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What do you understand by Human Rights? Discuss relevance of Social Contract theories in the making of ideas of Human Rights?
Human rights are universal rights for every individual dwelling in a society. They are equal for every human being in a society despite of any geographic, regional, racial, religion, political or cultural differences. Moreover, universal human rights are assured in terms of treaties, international law, general principles etc.
Human rights are incontrovertible, that means a person cannot lose these rights until he or she is in a special circumstances. It can only be taken away if a person commits a crime or similar act.
A person cannot be denied a right because it is “less important” or “non-essential.” Human rights are interdependent: all human rights are part of a complementary framework. For example, someone’s ability to participate in government is directly affected by his/r right to express his/her, to get an education, and even to obtain the necessities of life. Human rights are both inspirational and practical. Human rights principles hold up the vision of a free, just, and peaceful world and set minimum standards for how individuals and institutions everywhere should treat people. Human rights also empower people with a framework for action when those minimum standards are not met.
The idea of human rights is primarily of political nature with strong moral foundation. Minimum standard of well-ordered political institutions is critical for exercise and protection of human rights. Politics is driving force behind all changes in definition of individual rights as specific abuses enter the public consciousness. However, people still have human rights even if the laws or those in power do not recognize or protect them.
Universal Declaration of Human Right:
Human rights were universally declared on 10th December 1948, soon after World War II. It was passed as UDHR (Universal declaration of Human rights) by the General Assembly. The main intention behind this declaration was in favor of the international desire of human in order to protect basic human dignity and freedoms. <href=”#_ftn2″ name=”_ftnref2″ title=””>The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights as part of the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behavior of states and press upon them duties to their citizens following the model of the rights-duty duality. This had become a great inspiration for many people around the world.
Philosophy of Human rights:
The philosophies of human rights try to inspect the reason behind the concept of human rights and analyze its content and justification. Many theoretical concepts have been developed in order to justify the existence and importance of human rights.
Amongst many, one of the former Western philosophies of human rights states that they are a creation of a natural law, and it has been derived from different philosophical or religious grounds. Furthermore more, some additional theories assert that human rights regualates moral behavior. Human rights are also described as a sociological pattern of rule setting (as in the sociological theory of law and the work of Weber). These approaches include the notion that individuals in a society accept rules from legitimate authority in exchange for security and economic advantage (as in Rawls) – a social contract. The two theories that hold a dominating position in contemporary human rights discussion are the interest theory and the will theory. Interest theory claims that the principal function of human rights is to defend and promote certain essential human interests, while will theory claim to establish the soundness of human rights on the basis of unique human capacity for freedom.
Natural law theories state human rights on the basis of natural, moral or even biological order.
Many famous personnel has talked about natural rights. Amongst them, Socrates and his philosophic heirs, Plato and Aristotle had discussed about the existence of natural justice or natural law. Aristotle was known to be the father of natural law. Many philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, Francisco, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hobbes etc, had portrayed natural law theories in their philosophies.
In 17th century, Thomas Hobbes came across a contractualist theory of legal positivism which actually started from the principle of law of nature. It put emphasis on general human being would act in order to survive and to preach for peace. It is based on human kind’s basic interest.
However, the term “Human rights” has interchanged the term “natural right”. But it should be considered that, some kind of practice regarding human rights are actually recognized by the existence of Natural law. So they are somehow interlinked.
International Human right system:
International human right system is a system based on norms prepared internationally which assures the protection and promotion of individual human rights. It is same as general human rights and are applicable to all regarding any difference in age, gender, race, sex etc. Because of the international law, the city states are bound to act accordingly in order to prioritize the basic freedom and rights of the general people.
Sources of International Human rights law and international humanitarian law:
Although both these law tend to share same thoughts of protecting every human beings and to help them to lead a respectful life with dignity, but they origin from different historical and doctrinal sources. On the basis of legal ground, both these laws discover their sources in a series of international treaties which has been accompanied and supported by customary international law. To mark out the difference, we can distinguish between the application circumstances of these laws. As stated, international human rights law applies at all time, both in peace and war situation whereas, the international humanitarian law applies in the presence of armed conflict.
Substantive Human Rights
Substantive rights are important for ensuring the protection of individual beside the traditional rights.
· Right to life: The right to life is the essential right that a human being has the right not to be killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life is central to debates on the issues of abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, self defense and war. According to many human rights activists, the death penalty violates this right. The United Nations has called on states retaining the death penalty to establish a moratorium on capital punishment with a view to its abolition. States which do not do so face considerable moral and political pressure.
Right to freedom of opinion and expression: This right was established in the 17th century based on the struggle of European legislator for freedom of speech. Without the presence of this right, other right would be difficult to defend or acquire. This right is quite crucial for human right defenders as it can be used as a shield in order to challenge government because of any unintended action such as human rights abuses, suppression of freedom of expression etc.
· Right to liberty and security: This right is the most fundamental human rights as it puts a great impact on individual’s physical freedom. It can be executed in the form of certain right such as the right to liberty and security, the right to freedom from slavery and the right to freedom of movement.
The right to liberty assures a person that an arrest or detention will not be illogical or unlawful. In order to proceed, certain procedures need to be followed accordingly for a fair judgment. The right to personal security protects the law for individual to exercise the right of liberty.
· Freedom of slavery: Freedom of slavery is an internationally recognized human right. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
· The right to property: It is considered to be the one of the complicated human rights as it is subjected to more qualification and limitation. Moreover, it also has great impact on distribution of social goods and health and provides the right to enjoy the benefits associated with it such as right to education, right to adequate housing etc. Interestingly, this right has been an argumentative topic as it has been considered to be a part of natural right as human beings could not be deprived of it.
· The right to health: This right first took its initiative at United Nations conference in 1945 at the international level. Till then, health has become a great issue and it is considered that state should provide and take responsibility of certain basic services as follows: a) access of maternal and child health care b) immunization against major infectious diseases and injuries c) appropriate treatment of common disease and injuries d) essential drugs e) adequate supply of safe water and hygiene sanitation etc. In order to protect the right to health, every government are entitled to perform their duties accordingly, and at the same time they should also be aware of the being efficient also in preventing any environmental hazard that might affect people’s health severely. Therefore, the governments need to allocate enough funds for a successful operation.
· The right to an adequate standard of living: This right talks about the satisfactory level of standard of living such as basic requirements including adequate food and nutrition, clothing, housing etc. Every human being should have access to this basic requirement equally so that none has to degrade them in order to satisfy those needs. The adequate standard of living implies living over poverty line. Any violation of this right should be subjected to immediate obligation for states parties to major human right treaties.
· The right to participate in Society: This right gives an opportunity to every individual to get involved in a decision making processes that affect them. The freedom to vote and stand for elections and the freedoms of association and assembly are the major political expressions of such participation. These rights form the bases for any representative, democratic process and active civil society, and ensure that public affairs are truly public.
Social Contract Theory:
Social Contract also termed as Political contract is a model that start off during the Age of Enlightenment. Social Contract argument enforce the individual to agree to surrender some of their freedom and to submit to the authority in order to ensure the protection of the remaining rights. The social contract theories was first emerged in the midnight to the early 19th and it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy. Some of the most well known philosophies of social contract during those centuries are Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke etc. in 19th century the theory was eclipsed in favour of utilitarianism, Hegelianism and Marxism and were retrieved by John Rawls later in 20th Century.
Human rights are rights that are universal to every human being. According to the idea generated by human rights, it includes basic requirement by individual but however some limitation on rights are permissible which are limited by certain laws. Despite of violating certain rights, it is not acceptable to permit irresponsibility on certain issues like public emergency, police affair, national security etc. Limitations are permitted only at certain criteria and circumstances. Moreover, no government are allowed to overlook their responsibility on maintaining human rights and they should not exercise their power over illegal issues such as invading the right to life, or implement torture, inhuman punishment, slavery, or violate freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.
Nowadays, Human right is a supreme issue in every country. Even in some developed countries where human rights are meant to fulfilled accordingly are still subject to some kind of improvements. Lacking in performing this social welfare activities are always a prime issue. For example, the respect for civil and political rights has been greatly emphasized in the United States and American government is actively promoting those rights all over the world. On the other hand, the very same government does not recognize health care, work, homelessness, environmental pollution, and other social and economic concerns as human rights issues. Rather, they are viewed as mere aspirations or goals to be met someday in the distant future when they are feasible. Such approach has very serious consequences for quality of democracy in this country. Being deprived of their economic and social rights, people cannot effectively exercise their civil and political rights.
Therefore, it is expected that every country could recognize and perform their human right activities so that every citizen are allowed to lead a respectful safe life in their own country and could perform their adequate right and desired benefits. This would not only help to prosper the country but would help to prosper the economy simultaneously.
· Fagan, A (2005). “Human Rights”. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ISSN 2161-0002.
· Universal Declaration of Human right.Retrieved on June16, 2012 from http://www.facinghistory.org/resources/collections/udhr?_kk=declaration on human rights&_kt=86bf3116-075a-46c1-ae25-5f06
· Introduction to Human Rights. Retrieved June 16, 2013 from
· Substantive Human rights. Retrieved on June 16, 2013 from http://www.humanrights.is/the-human-rights-project/humanrightscasesandmaterials/humanrightsconceptsideasandfora/substantivehumanrights/
· Icelandic Human Rights Centre. Definitions & Classifications. Retrieved from http://www.humanrights.is/the-human-rights- project/humanrightscasesandmaterials/humanrightsconceptsideasandfora/theco nceptsofhumanrightsanintroduction/definitionsandclassifications/
· Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2013). Social Contract. Retrieved on June 16, 2013 from
· Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2013). Human Rights Law. Retrieved on June14, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_law
· Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2012). Philosophy of Human Rights. Retrieved on June 16, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights
Universal Declaration of Human right.Retrieved on June16, 2012 from http://www.facinghistory.org/resources/collections/udhr?_kk=declaration on human rights&_kt=86bf3116-075a-46c1-ae25-5f06
Introduction to Human Rights. Retrieved June 16, 2013 from http://www.lincoln.edu/criminaljustice/hr/Introduction.htm
Fagan, A (2005). “Human Rights”. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ISSN 2161-0002.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2012). Philosophy of Human Rights. Retrieved on June 16, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2012). Philosophy of Human Rights. Retrieved on June 16, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights
Substantive Human rights. Retrieved on June 16, 2013 from http://www.humanrights.is/the-human-rights-project/humanrightscasesandmaterials/humanrightsconceptsideasandfora/substantivehumanrights/
Icelandic Human Rights Centre. Definitions & Classifications. Retrieved from http://www.humanrights.is/the-human-rights- project/humanrightscasesandmaterials/humanrightsconceptsideasandfora/theco nceptsofhumanrightsanintroduction/definitionsandclassifications/
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2013). Social Contract. Retrieved on June 16, 2013 from