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EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

BY ALINA MEHEDINTI

Equality and human rights


The foremost statement of the rights and freedoms of all human beings:
All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and
fundamental freedoms
Preliminaries

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the

world.

Ideas about human rights have evolved over many centuries. But they achieved

strong international support following the Holocaust and World War II. To protect future
generations from a repeat of these horrors, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights in 1948. For the first time, the Universal Declaration set out the fundamental
rights and freedoms shared by all human beings.

On 10 December 1948 in Paris, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted

and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration was the
first international recognition that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms and it
continues to be a living and relevant document today.

The Universal Declaration is often considered the foundation stone for modern

human rights. Since the Declaration was adopted in 1948 it has inspired over 80 international
conventions and treaties, as well as numerous regional and domestic conventions, bills and
legislation.
What are the human rights?
As social phenomenon, human rights have their origin in antiquity. In exchange, as legal
phenomenon, human rights have been originated by the natural law doctrine, starting from the
idea that humans, by their own nature, anywhere and anytime have rights that are previous and
primary to the ones assigned by the society and admitted by the natural law. In other words, this
is a superior right in relation to the expression of states will in various forms of its existence and
unconditioned by the interests that the state might have in a moment of its historical evolution.
Originally, people had rights only because of their membership in a group, such as a family.
Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, did something totally

unexpectedhe freed all slaves to return home. Moreover, he declared people should choose
their own religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human
rights declaration in history.
The idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and eventually Rome. The most
important advances since then have included:
1215: The Magna Cartagave people new rights and made the king subject to the law.
1628: The Petition of Rightset out the rights of the people.
1776: The United States Declaration of Independenceproclaimed the right to life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.
1789: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizena document of France,
stating that all citizens are equal under the law.
1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rightsthe first document listing the 30 rights to
which everyone is entitled.
Human rights are based on core principles like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and
autonomy. They are relevant to your day-to-day life and protect your freedom to control your
own life, effectively take part in decisions made by public authorities which impact upon your
rights and get fair and equal services from public authorities. Human rights are "basic rights and
freedoms to which all humans are entitled".
The

doctrine

of

human

rights

aims

to

identify

the

necessary

positive

and negative prerequisites for a "universal" minimal standard of justice, tolerance and human
dignity that can be considered the public moral norms owed by and to individuals by the mere
virtue of their humanity. Such prerequisites can exist as shared norms of actual human moralities,
as justified moral norms or moral rights supported by strong reasons, as legal rights at a national
level, or as a legal right within international law.
Human rights advocates seek the strong protection of human rights through their effective
realisation in each of these ways. The claim of Human rights is therefore that they are universal,
in that they are possessed by all by virtue of the fact that they are human, and independent in that
their existence as moral standards of justification and criticism is independent whether or not
they are recognized and by a particular national or international legal system. or government.

The general idea of Human rights has widespread acceptance, and the Charter of the United
Nations which has been signed by virtually all sovereign states recognises the existence of
human rights and it has been argued that the doctrine of human rights has become the dominant
moral doctrine for regulating and evaluating the moral status of the contemporary geo-political
order. However, debate and disagreement over which rights are human rights, and about the
precise nature, content, justification and appropriate legal status of those rights continues.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has acted as the predominant modern
codification of commonly accepted human rights principles and many national and international
documents, treaties and instruments that have expanded on its principles and act as a collective
expression of widespread conceptions of human rights by the international community. Examples
of rights and freedoms which have come to be commonly thought of as human rights include
civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality
before the law; and economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to participate in
culture, the right to be treated with respect and dignity, the right to food, the right to work , and
the right to education.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." - Article 1
of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place
of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. Weare
all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are allinterrelated,
interdependent and indivisible.Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by
law, in the forms of treaties,customary international law , general principles and other sources of
international law.International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in
certain waysor to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights
andfundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Universal and inalienable
The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rightslaw.
This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in1948, has
been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions,declarations, and resolutions.
The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, forexample, noted that it is the duty of

States to promote and protect all human rights andfundamental freedoms, regardless of their
political, economic and cultural systems.All States have ratified at least one, and 80% of States
have ratified four or more, of thecore human rights treaties, reflecting consent of States which
creates legal obligations forthem and giving concrete expression to universality. Some
fundamental human rightsnorms enjoy universal protection by customary international law
across all boundaries andcivilizations.Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken
away, except in specific situationsand according to due process. For example, the right to liberty
may be restricted if a personis found guilty of a crime by a court of law.
Interdependent and indivisible
All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the rightto
life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and culturalrights, such
as the rights to work, social security and education , or collective rights, such asthe rights to
development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated andinterdependent. The
improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others.Likewise, the deprivation of one
right adversely affects the others.
Equal and non-discriminatory
Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in international human rights law. Theprinciple is
present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of
international human rights conventions such as the International Convention on theElimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of AllForms of
Discrimination against Women.The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human rights
and freedoms and itprohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of non-exhaustive categories
such as sex, race, colour and so on. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the
principle of equality.
Both Rights and Obligations
Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties
underinternational law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights.The obligation to
respectmeans that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of
humanrights.The obligation to protectrequires States to protect individuals and groups

againsthuman rights abuses.The obligation to fulfilmeans that States must take positive action
tofacilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitledour
human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.
Classification of the human rights
Human rights can be classified in a number of different ways. Some rights may fall into more
than one of the available categories. One of the most widely used classifications distinguishes
two general categories: classic or civil and political rights, and social rights that also include
economic and cultural rights.

Civil rights: the freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom

from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places.

Social and economical rights: the right to education, the right to food, the right to

health, the right to housing, the right to security, the right to work.
International human rights regimes are in several cases "nested" within more comprehensive
and overlapping regional agreements. These regional regimes can be seen as relatively
independently coherent human rights sub-regimes.
Three principal regional human rights instruments can be identified; the African Charter on
Human and Peoples' Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights (the Americas) and the
European Convention on Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights has since
1950 defined and guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. All 47 member
states of the Council of Europe have signed the Convention and are therefore under the
jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The European Union sees human rights as universal and indivisible. It actively promotes and
defends them both within its borders and when engaging in relations with non-EU countries.
The European Union is founded on a strong engagement to promote and protect human rights,
democracy and rule of law worldwide. Sustainable peace, development and prosperity cannot
exist without respect for human rights. This commitment underpins all internal and external
policies of the European Union. Within EU borders, those principles are embedded in the EU
founding treaties, reinforced by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights adopted in 2000, and
strengthened still further when the Charter became legally binding with the entry into force of
the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

Outside EU borders, the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the Union's action on the international
scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and
enlargement and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the
universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human
dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity and respect for the principles of the United
Nations Charter and international law.

The story of human rights