The concept of human rights is firmly embedded in contemporary public consciousness. Such awareness is a fairly new phenomenon and is mostly attributed to the progress made recent years. That is not to say that the effect is overwhelming – many of the widely recognized rights are frequently violated, and even the awareness itself is uneven – in some parts of the world the rights we now deem as absolute are perceived almost as a luxury. But the progress is underway, and while there is still much to be done in terms of securing even the basic human rights, the strategies and the general principles of achieving equality can be outlined.
We will write a custom Essay on Human Rights, Education and Awareness specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Human rights have been defined in different ways throughout the course of history in documents that aimed at securing them. The widely accepted definition is “The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are considered to be entitled.“ (“Human Rights”) This basically means that the right is the sovereignty to act without the permission of others. However, the important attribute of a human right is its default value and its universality.
This separates it from privilege, which also grants such sovereignty, but only to certain human beings. The selection, in this case, is based on any number of criteria, like gender, race, social status, or wealth. The privilege-based approach dominated the world for most of the recorded history and was constantly challenged by the elite and the general population. In the modern world, privilege is considered the sign of inequality, as it is an obtainable attribute and can, therefore, be gained and lost, while the right is universal and secures the equality of all human beings. Nevertheless, certain privileges can become rights, like the right to contraception, which, according to female rights activists, strips the men of their privileges above women (Cook 14).
The human rights are maintained in different ways, but can be divided in two categories: negative and positive. A negative right is a right that requires inaction to be fulfilled (Donnelly 42). In other words, it is granted as long as nobody does something to violate it.
The right to life and the freedom of speech are the most often cited as the examples of negative rights, but this category also includes freedom of religion, freedom from violent crime, and freedom from slavery, among others. The positive rights, on the other hand, require action to be adhered to. The right to health is the easiest example: it is not enough to leave a person alone to guarantee its health: instead, he or she must be granted medical services and certain goods, like medications.
It is easy to see how the right for health serves as an extension of the right to life: if the non-intrusive behavior (inaction) will suffice for a healthy person to let him or her live, an ill individual will require additional action for the same right to be maintained.
The same relations are true for the other negative rights and their corresponding positive counterparts: the right for freedom from violent crime requires the right to national security while the right for education is an extension for the right to economic development, among others. Some of the active rights fall into the category of “third generation rights” (Wellman 644) which includes the communication rights and the rights to a healthy environment, among others. While being on the rise in more developed societies, these are nigh-utopian in the third world countries, where even the basic rights are often neglected (Sen and Grown 18).
The education and raising awareness is the most valid techniques for amending the situation (Totten and Pedersen 87). Throughout history, all the struggles for rights were won by conscientious people, while misinformation and deception secured the privileges in place for the selected few. Thus, civil education should be among the primary strategies for authorities and activist groups alike, when it comes to securing equality and liberty.
Cook, Hera. The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex, and Contraception, 1800-1975, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2013. Print.
Human Rights n.d. Web.
Sen, Gita, and Caren Grown. Development Crises and Alternative Visions: Third World Women’s Perspectives, Washington: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Totten, Samuel and Jon Pedersen. Teaching and Studying Social Issues: Major Programs and Approaches, Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing, 2011. Print.
Wellman, Carl. “Solidarity, the Individual and Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 22.3 (2000): 639-657. Print.