Human Rights Law: Meaning and Significance

Human rights are the standard rights that a person attains by his mere existence, and the law helps to recognise, protect, and conserve such rights. Also known as natural rights, human rights are the minimal rights given to every individual who is born as a human being, irrespective of their caste, religion, sex, or any kind of discrimination. Human rights are universal and inalienable. All people everywhere in the world are entitled to them. No one can give them up nor can others take it away from him or her.

The right to vote and the right to a fair trial in court are far easier for people to relate to. These frequently have to do with the functions of the government and the democratic system. Though many people are unaware of them, some human rights are more fundamental than others. For instance, one of the most significant yet unacknowledged rights is the right to health. People cannot fulfil their basic requirements, such as receiving healthy food, good night's sleep or avoiding illness, without access to health care. They are unable to support their communities and can possibly pass away from diseases that could be prevented.

Why Are Human Rights Important?

According to the Humanists in their open statement on human rights, one of the key reasons why human rights are so crucial is because they assist in shielding oppressed minorities against tyranny. Human rights are crucial because nobody should be mistreated or subjected to discrimination, and everyone should have the opportunity to discover their potential. Unfortunately, these fundamental rights and liberties are not enjoyed by a large number of individuals worldwide. The United States has the greatest impact on the world's governments and citizens since it is one of the most developed nations on the Earth. It is crucial that our government take all necessary steps to safeguard human rights both at home and abroad.

Human rights cannot be divided. Human rights are a part of every person's dignity, regardless of whether they pertain to civic, cultural, economic, political, or social issues. Because of this, it is impossible to place human rights in a hierarchy because they all have equal status. The exercise of other rights is always hampered when one right is denied. Therefore, other rights, like the right to health or the right to education, cannot be sacrificed in order to satisfy everyone's right to an appropriate standard of life.

Evolution of Human Rights

The idea of human rights is as old as the "natural rights" doctrine, which was based on natural law. An individual's rights are safeguarded from the beginning under the moral or legal concept of "fundamental rights. All people have the right to exercise their human rights. They outline the interactions between people and political systems, particularly the state. Human rights limit state power but also require states to take proactive steps to create an environment where everyone can exercise their rights. The battle to forge such a setting has shaped history over the last 250 years. The idea of human rights has inspired numerous revolutionary movements for empowerment and for control over the wielders of power, governments in particular, going back to the French and American revolutions in the late eighteenth century.

Early in the 20th century, the international community started to become concerned about the protection of human rights. At the conclusion of World War I, the League of Nations was formed, and efforts were made to create an international legal framework and international monitoring systems to protect minorities. The term "human rights" only recently came into use following the Second World War. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 out of great concern for humanity, sparked the development of other international human rights agreements and covenants.

In The Area of Civil and Political Rights

It includes −

  • Right to life

  • Freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

  • Freedom from slavery, servitude and forced labour

  • Right to liberty and security of person

  • Right of detained persons to be treated with humanity

  • Freedom of movement

  • Right to a fair trial

  • Prohibition of retroactive criminal laws

  • Right to recognition as a person before the law

  • Right to privacy

  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

  • Freedom of opinion and expression

  • Prohibition of propaganda for war and of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred

  • Freedom of assembly

In The Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

It includes −

  • Right to work

  • Right to just and favourable conditions of work

  • Right to form and join trade unions

  • Right to social security

  • Protection of the family

  • Right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing

  • Right to health

  • Right to education

In The Area of Collective Rights

Right of peoples to −

  • Self−determination

  • Developmen

  • Free use of their wealth and natural resources

  • Peac

  • A healthy environment

Human Rights as Legal Rights (positive law tradition)

Human rights are the result of a formal norm−creating process, which we define as the authoritative formulation of the laws that govern a society (national or international), according to "Legal Positivism." For "natural rights," which are unalienable, unchangeable, and of divine origin, "positive law" rights are established through a political and legal process that results in a declaration, legislation, treaty, or other normative instrument. Rather than establishing a rigid standard, these may change over time and be susceptible to exceptions or restrictions intended to maximise respect for human rights.

They take on more universality as a result of participation by almost every country in the process of defining norms, which is founded on legislation but takes into account compromise and historical changes. They become a part of the social order when an authoritative authority proclaims them. Consider the moral and legal validity of sexual and racial prejudice, enslavement, and torture over the majority of human history.


Human rights apply to every facet of existence. Because of their activity, all people can shape and control their own lives in liberty, equality, and respect for human dignity.  Human rights encompass civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as peoples' collective rights. Human rights are characterised by an ethical concern for fair treatment that is based on human empathy or compassion and philosophical notions of fairness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What kinds of human rights obligations are there?

Obligations are generally of three kinds− to respect, to protect, and to fulfil human rights.

Q. Is there any hierarchy among human rights?

No, all human rights are equally important. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it clear that human rights of all kinds are of equal validity and importance.

Q. Are there differences between individual rights and collective rights?

Sometimes the equal worth and dignity of all can be assured only through the recognition and protection of individuals’ rights as members of a group. The term "collective rights" or "group rights" refers to the rights of such peoples and groups, where the individual is defined by his or her ethnic, cultural, or religious community.

Q. Is it possible to realize human rights when resources are limited?

In many situations, the obligation to respect a given right may require more in the way of political will than financial resources.

Q. Do human rights depend on culture?

International human rights are universally recognized regardless of cultural differences, but their practical implementation does demand sensitivity to culture.

Q. What is the relationship between human rights and human development?

Human development and human rights are close enough in motivation and concern to be compatible and congruous, and they are different enough in strategy and design to supplement each other fruitfully.

Q. What is the relationship between human rights and poverty reduction?

It is now generally understood that poverty is a result of disempowerment and exclusion. Human rights violations are both a cause and a consequence of poverty.

Q. What is the relationship between human rights and good governance?

The concepts of good governance and human rights are mutually reinforcing, both being based on core principles of participation, accountability, transparency, and State responsibility.

Q. What is the relationship between human rights and economic growth?

Economic growth is a means, not the goal, of development. It can also be instrumental in the realization of human rights. However, economic growth must be achieved in a manner consistent with human rights principles.

Q. Does the realization of human rights require big government?

The international human rights treaties neither require nor preclude any particular form of government or economic system.

Updated on: 14-Dec-2022


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