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Saturday, November 24, 2007




Harold Laski one of the prominent political thinkers of the 20th century said , " Rights are in fact, those conditions of social life without which no man can seek in general, to be himself at his best." Human rights can also be defined as "Those conditions of life and freedoms which should be available to all persons, irrespective of their religion, race, caste, sex, nationality or any of them."

On December 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It called upon member nations to adopt and implement these rights in their respective countries. This declaration was a momentous achievement because it was for the first time that human rights were codified and steps were taken for the preservation of human rights. There are different types of rights such as political, economic social and cultural
Political Rights

Political rights are an important feature of human rights. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. But democracy does not mean merely the right to vote and send representatives to the Parliament or the Legislature. It includes much more. It postulates multiplicity of parties and a politically aware electorate which can make an intelligent choice between the parties on the basis of their political ideology and manifesto. If the electorate is not politically aware, and is guided by consideration of race, religion, creed or colour or ethnicity, democracy can go off the rails. The people must be the subject of politics and not the object. There must be debate and discussion in regard to policies and programs, not only in Parliament or Legislature, but also amongst the people. The responsibility of the people in a democracy does not end by participating in periodic elections. They have to actively participate through influencing decisions of their representatives. They have to create public opinion and exert pressure on the Government to take the right decisions. That is why it is absolutely essential that there should be complete transparency in actions of the Government and people should have the right to information without which they cannot participate in the process of the Government.

The 'Will of the people' shall be the authority of the government. This 'Will' shall be expressed through periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage. The elections shall be held by a secret vote. In a country like Australia the people select their government while in Saudia Arabia the hereditary kings are the heads of the state. Under Political rights everyone has the right to nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. Nor one shall be denied the right to change his nationality. Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum and persecution from others. Countries like England have a very liberal asylum policy. People from Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran who were persecuted in their countries have found a safe haven in many western countries.
Economic Rights

Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be deprived of his property under except due course of the law. Every citizen has the right to social security. Social security is a system by which the government pays money regularly to people who have no other income or only a very small income. In India many schemes such as Swarna Jayanti Rozgar Yojna, Jawahar Rozgar Yojna and Integrated Rural Development Programme. In America the unemployed people receive financial support from the unemployment office. People should have the right to a standard of living for the health and well being of himself and his family. This includes proper food, proper clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services. They should have the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable hours of work and paid holidays.

Social Rights
The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society. It is entitled to full protection by society and the state. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. Men and women of the full age should have the right to marry and raise a family. Marriage shall be entered into with full consent of the intending persons. In a democratic country like France or Sri Lanka these rights are available to the citizens whereas in Afghanistan which was under a strict rule of the Taliban, the women were treated as cattle and had no say in marriage. They had to marry according to the whims of their elders. Education at least in the elementary level should be free. It is very important that the citizens be educated . It is only then that they will be able to participate in the democratic process and fight when there rights are denied.

Cultural Rights
The cultural rights guarantee the people the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. They have the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community. In other words, every one has the right to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits.
Human rights & the organisations protecting them United nations
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights , adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, elaborated commitment to democracy by proclaiming that "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government" and guaranteeing to everyone the rights that are essential for effective political participation. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the Assembly in 1966, conferred binding legal status on the right of individuals to participate in the processes that constitute the conduct of public affairs, and further strengthened the protection accorded to participatory rights and freedoms.
UN Human Rights Commission

This was constituted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in its first session. The commission held its first session in January 1947. The Human Rights Commission formulates schemes for the protection of minorities and for prevention of discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex and religion. It may consider any matter within the realm of human rights which may impair the general welfare among nations.

National Commission on Human Rights
This Commission is instituted by countries. India has also instituted NHRC in 1993. This Commission can inquire into complaints of violation of human rights, review acts of terrorism, visit any jail and study living conditions and promote research in the field of human rights. The NHRC in India has the powers of a Civil Court and can summon witnesses and receive evidence or affidavits.

Non Governmental Organisations
Many organisations such as International League for Human Rights (U.S.A.), People's Union for Civil Liberties (India) and People's Commission are actively drawing attention to human rights abuses.

Amnesty International
Founded by Peter Benenson this organization aims at bringing the problem of prisoners to the forefront. It seeks to release of prisoners detained for political and religious opinions, fair and open trial of prisoners and help refugees seek asylum in other countries. For its work Amnesty International received the Nobel Peace Prize for peace in 1977.

The world during the last few years has seen gross violations of human rights. The onus now lies on us to prevent the misuse of power and that the rights of the common man are protected. Only a concerted effort on the part of individuals along with governmental and non-governmental organizations will help in the human rights being safeguarded.


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