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Analysis: Universal Conception of Human Rights

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted, for example, if a person breaks the law or national securities. The basic human rights are the right to life, the right to dignity, fairness, equality, respect, and independence. Human rights are universal in application, and they apply irrespective of one's origin, status, condition, or place of residence. Human rights are enforceable without a national border. Human beings are the same regardless of race, sex, religion, political or other opinion, or national or social origin.

We are all born free, equal in dignity and rights. Magna Carta is primarily considered as the oldest officiated document of human rights. The tax rights were settled in this document. Then, Human Rights improved or enhanced in petition of rights, 1628. The bill of rights 1689 set out certain basic civil rights. The Virginia declaration, 1776 affirmed that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights. The Constitution of the USA,1787 with amendments in 1789, 1865, 1869, 1919 specified the fundamental right of a man.

The French declaration 1789, UDHR 1948, and International covenant 1966 are some other important declarations in the evolution Of Human rights. The International bill of human rights consist of UDHR(United Declaration of Human Rights), ICCPR(International covenant on Civil and political rights) and ICESCR(International covenant on Economic, social and cultural rights).

Evolution Of Human Rights

  1. Magna Carta:
    Magna Carta also known as "Great Charter", is a charter of rights agreed to by King John of England, on 15th June 1215, to make peace between the unpopular king and a group of people, it promised the protection of church rights.
  2. Petition of Rights, 1628:
    A statement of Civil liberties sent by the English parliament of Charles 1. Human rights were improved or enhanced in the petition.
  3. The Bill of Rights, 1689:
    Is a landmark Act in the constitutional law of England that sets out certain basic civil rights.
  4. The Virginia Declaration, 1776:
    This declaration specified a number of fundamental rights of man. The Virginia declaration of rights affirmed that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights.
  5. Constitution of USA 1787:
    The Constitution of the USA 1787 with amendments in 1789, 1865, 1869 and 1919 specified a number of fundamental rights of man.
  6. The French declaration, 1789:
    Inspired by the American declaration of independence, the newly formed National Assembly proclaimed the declaration of the rights of man and citizen.
  7. Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948:
    As a historic document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, UDHR is a milestone document in the history of Human rights, it sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
  8. International Covenants 1966:
    The United Nations General Assembly adopted two covenants on 16th Dec. 1966, the international covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ICESCR).

Theories of Human Rights

To understand the concept of Human Rights, there are several theories by different philosophers.
  1.  Rights Based On Natural Rights
    Underlying such foundational or core rights theory is the omnipresence of Immanuel Kant's compelling ethics. Kant's ethics maintains that person's typically have different desires and ends, so any principle derived from them can only be contingent.Kant's great imperative is that the central focus of morality is personhood, namely the capacity to take responsibility as a free and rational agent for one's system of end.Kant's theory overrides all arbitrary distinctions of race, creed and custom and universal in nature.

    Article 1 of UDHR provides: "All Human beings are born free and equal in dignity". The debt that "inherent dignity" and "inalienable rights" owe to natural law philosophy is obvious.
  2. Rights Based On Justice
    The thesis of modern philosophy is John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice". Justice is the first virtue of social institutions,". Human rights, of course, are an end of justice; hence, the role of justice is crucial to understanding human rights.

    No theory of Human Rights for a domestic or international order in Modern Society can be advanced today without considering Rawls' thesis.
  3. Rawls' first principle:
    "Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all".

    Rawls' second principle:
    Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that the general conception of justice behind these principles reaches its original position.
  4. Rights Based On Reaction To Injustice
    Professor Edmund Cahn's theory of Justice. Cahn asserts that although there may be universal a priori truths concerning justice from which one may deduce rights or norms, it is better to approach justice from its negative rather than its affirmative side.

    Justice means the active process of remedying or preventing what would arouse the sense of injustice
  5. Rights Based On Dignity
    A number of human rights theorists have tried to construct a comprehensive system of human rights norms based on a value policy oriented approach focused on the protection of human dignity.McDougal, Lasswell, and Chen proceed on the premise that demands for human rights are demands for wide sharing in all the values upon which human rights depend:
    1.  Respect
    2. Power
    3. Enlightenment
    4. Well-being
    5. Health
    6. Skill
    7. Affection
  6. Rights Based On Equality Of Respect & Concern
    Ronald Dworkin, who offers a promising reconciliation theory between natural rights and utilitarian theories. Dworkin starts with the basic idea of political morality, which is that governments should care about and respect all of their citizens in the same way. In the absence of such a premise, there is no valid way to talk about rights and claims. The utilitarian principle that "everybody can count for one, nobody for more than one."
  7. Rights Based On Cultural Relativism
    No human rights principles can be said to be self-evident and recognized in all times and all places. Moral relativism is not very influential in modern philosophy, but cultural relativism has been used frequently as an argument against the universality of human rights. No human rights are absolute, that the principles that one may use for judging behavior are relative to the society in which one is raised, and that all cultures are morally equal or valid.

Characteristics Of Human Rights

  1. Inherent- Human Rights are inherent because they are not granted by any person or authority. Human rights do not have to be bought, earned or inherited; they belong to people simply because they are human. Human rights are inherent to each individual
  2. Fundamental - Human Rights are fundamental rights because without them, the life and dignity of man will be meaningless.
  3. Inalienable - Human rights cannot be taken away; no one has the right to deprive another person of them for any reason. People still have human rights even when the laws of their countries do not recognize them, or when they violate them - for example, when slavery is practiced, slaves still have rights even though these rights are being violated. Human rights are inalienable. Human Rights are inalienable because:
    1. They cannot be rightfully taken away from a free individual.
    2. They cannot be given away or forfeited.
  4. Imprescriptibly - Human Rights do not prescribe and cannot be lost even if man fails to use or assert them, even by a long passage of time.
  5. Indivisible -To live in dignity, all human beings are entitled to freedom, security and decent standards of living concurrently. Human rights are indivisible. Human Rights are not capable of being divided. They cannot be denied even when other rights have already been enjoyed.
  6. Universal - Human Rights are universal in application and they apply irrespective of one's origin, status, or condition or place where one lives. Human rights are enforceable without a national border. Human rights are the same for all human beings regardless of race, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin. We are all born free, and equal in dignity and rights- human rights are universal.
  7. Interdependent - Human Rights are interdependent of the other because the fulfillment or exercise of one cannot be had without the realization.

Generations Of Human Rights

Four Generations of Human Rights, are four overarching types of human rights norms: civil-political, socio-economic, and collective developmental. The first two, which represent potential claims of individual persons against the state, are firmly accepted norms identified in international treaties and conventions.

The last two types, which represent potential claims of peoples and groups against the state, are the most debated and lack both legal and political recognition.
  1. First Generation
    First-generation human rights, sometimes called "blue" rights, deal essentially with liberty and participation in political life. They are fundamentally civil and political in nature: They serve negatively to protect the individual from excesses of the state. First-generation rights include, among other things, the right to life, equality before the law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, property rights, the right to a fair trial, and voting rights. Some of these rights and the right to due process date back to the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Rights of Englishmen, which were expressed in the English Bill of Rights in 1689. A more full set of first generation human rights was pioneered in France by the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
  2. Second Generation
    The second set of human rights have to do with equality, and governments started to recognise them after World War II. They are fundamentally economic, social, and cultural in nature. They guarantee different members of the citizenry equal conditions and treatment. Secondary rights would include a right to be employed in just and favorable conditions, rights to food, housing, and health care, as well as social security and unemployment benefits. Like first-generation rights, they were also covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and further embodied in Articles 22�28 of the Universal Declaration, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Some states have enacted some of these economic rights.
  3. Third Generation
    Third-generation human rights are those rights that go beyond the mere civil and social, as expressed in many progressive documents of international law, including the 1972 Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and other pieces of generally aspirational "soft law."

    Also known as Solidarity human rights, they are rights that try to go beyond the framework of individual rights to focus on collective concepts, such as community or people.
    • Group and collective rights
    • Right to self-determination
    • Right to a healthy environment Right to natural resources
    • Right to communicate and communication rights
    • Right to participation in cultural heritage
    • Rights to intergenerational equity and sustainability
  4. Fourth Generation
    Several analysts claim that a fourth generation of human rights is emerging, which would include rights that cannot be included in the third generation, future claims of first and second generation rights and new rights, especially in relation to technological development and information and communication technologies and cyberspace.

    However, the content of it is not clear, and these analysts do not present a unique proposal. They normally take some rights from the third generation and include them in the fourth, such as the right to a healthy environment or aspects related to bioethics. Some of those analysts believe that the fourth generation is given by human rights in relation to new technologies while others prefer to talk about.
  5. Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th Dec. 1948. It declares that Human Rights are Universal to be enjoyed by all people, no matter who they are or where they live. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights consists of a preamble and 30 Articles. Covering both Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
    • Article 1 and 2: General
    • Article 3-21:- Civil and Political Rights
    • Article 22-28:- Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    UDHR can be divided into 6 parts:
    • Part 1 (Article 1 and 2): They reaffirm human dignity, equality and brotherhood.
    • Part 2 (Article 3-11): They are the rights of the individual and include Right to life, outlawing of slavery or torture, equality before law, The Rights to a fair trial etc.
    • Part 3 (Article 12-17): They are the rights of individuals within Civil and Political society. They include freedom of movement, the rights to nationality, the right to marry and start a family.
    • Part 4 (Article 18-21):- They are the spiritual and religious rights of individuals, such as freedom of thought and conscience, right to your own opinion, the right to peaceful assembly and association and the right to vote and take part in government.
    • Part 5 (Article 22 - 27):- They are the Social, Economic and Cultural rights of the individual. They include the right to work, the right to rest and leisure, the right to a decent standard of living and the right to education
    • Part 6 (Article 28 - 30):- They remind us that rights come with obligations, and that none of the rights mentioned in the UDHR can be used to violate the spirit of the United.

    International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights (ICCPR)

    The ICCPR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
    • ICCPR is monitored by the United Nations Human Right Committee. It has it's root in the same process that led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted on 16th December, 1966 and came into effect on 23rd March, 1976.
    The Covenant consists of a preamble and 53 Articles This Covenant is divided into 6 parts Part 1,2 and 3 describe the various rights and freedoms and part 4,5 and 6 explain the implementation procedure for the effective realization of these rights.  
  6. Parts of ICCPR:
    • Part 1 (Article 1-3 and 5):- General Right of people's self determination, Equal right of men and women.
    • Part 2 (Article 4):- Right in Emergency
    • Part 3 (Article 6-27):- Substantive Rights No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
      • Sentences of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.
      • Freedom of Movement and freedom.
      • Equality before law
      • Part 4 (Article 28-45): They provide the procedure for the implementation of the rights. Which will be monitored by the Human Right Committee.
      • Part 5 (Article 46-47): Clarifies that the Covenant shall not be interpreted as interfering with the operation of the United Nations or "the inherent right of all peoples to enjoy and utilize fully and freely their natural wealth and resources".
      • Part 6 (Article 48-53): Which deals with the formalities of the ratification and implementation of the Covenant.

  7. International Covenant On Economic, Social And Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
    The ICESCR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    The ICESCR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Covenant is monitored by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The ICESCR has it's root in the same process that led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    The first document became the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, and the second the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16th December, 1966 and came into effect on 3rd January, 1976.

    • Part 1 (Article 1) : Recognizes the rights of all peoples to self determination including the right to "Freely determine their political status" pursue their economic, social and cultural goals, and manage and dispose of their own resources.
    • Part 2 (Article 2-5): Establishes the principles of "progressive realization". It also requires the right be recognized without discrimination of any kind as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other.
    • Part 3 (Article 6-15):- Lists the rights:
      • Work, under "just and favorable conditions". unions.
      • Right to form and join trade Social security, including social insurance.
      • An adequate standard of living.
      • Participation in cultural life.
    • Part 4 (Article 16-25): Governs reporting and monitoring of the covenant and the steps taken by the parties to implement it.
    • Part 5 (Article 26-31): Governs ratification, entry into force, and amendment of the covenant.
  8. Challenges
    1. Refugee Crisis
      The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. At the end of 2018, conflict and persecution had displaced an unprecedented 70.8 million people worldwide. Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment, and freedom of movement.
    2. Poverty
      While global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, one in ten people in developing regions still lives on less than US$1.90 a day - the internationally agreed poverty line, and millions of others live on slightly more than this daily amount.
    3. Racism
      Even in this century, discrimination and suppression are often faced by people due to Racism. Across the globe, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT) continue to face endemic violence, legal discrimination, and other human rights violations on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity
    4. Children
      Around the world, millions of children are denied a fair chance for no reason other than the country, gender or circumstances into which they are born. Around the world, children make up nearly half of the almost 900 million people living below the poverty line. Their families struggle to afford the basic health care and nutrition needed to provide them.
    5. Climate Change and Human Rights
      Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human rights of our generation, posing a serious risk to the fundamentals. rights to life, health, food and an adequate standard of living of individuals and communities across the world. Climate change is inducing not only ecological adjustments, but is also impacting the social, economic, political, cultural and legal aspects of societies.
    6. Terrorism
      Terrorism poses a serious threat, The only to international peace and security, but also to the enjoyment of human rights and social and economic development. By committing acts of terror, terrorists by definition attack the values at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  9. Conclusion
    Human rights are also a politically constructed concept: who defines, who gets benefit, who loses, whose voices are heard, whose voices are silenced. Developing and mainstreaming human rights into national law are not simply a regular legislation process, yet there are driving forces both internal and external factors: social, political, economy, ideology, security matters etc.

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