The chapter introduces students to various types of Rights and explains why they are essential. Here, we highlight political, cultural and economic rights. This chapter also explains the Fundamental nature of rights along with the responsibilities that come up along with them.
What are Rights?
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed or owed to people according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.
Rights are primarily those claims that are necessary for leading a life of respect and dignity. It is something that is considered to be due to an individual; something that the rest of society must recognise as being a legitimate claim that must be upheld.
The History of Rights
Political theorists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries argued that God's nature bestows rights on us. They claimed to have derived them from natural law. This meant that rights are not bestowed by a ruler or society; rather, they are bestowed upon us at birth.
There are three natural rights identified by the early political theorists:
● Right to Life
● Right to liberty
● Right to property.
All the other rights were said to be derived from these basic rights.
The idea that we are born with certain rights is a powerful one because it implies that no state or organisation has the authority to take away what nature has bestowed upon us. The term "human rights" has become more popular in recent years than "natural rights." This is because the idea of natural law, or a set of norms established by nature or God, appears to be unacceptably radical today.
Human beings are increasingly seeing rights as guarantees that they seek or achieve in order to live a minimally good life. Existing inequalities based on race, caste, religion, and gender are increasingly being challenged using this concept of a free and equal self.
Oppressed people all over the world have used the concept of universal human rights to challenge laws that segregate them and deny them equal opportunities and rights. As societies face new threats and challenges, the list of human rights that people have claimed has grown.
People are increasingly aware of the need to protect the natural environment, which has resulted in calls for rights to clean air, water, and long-term development.
State and the Legal Rights
Bill of Rights
A bill of rights is a list of a country's most important rights granted to its citizens, also known as a declaration of rights or a charter of rights. The goal is to protect those rights from infringement by public officials and private citizens. Many constitutions around the world include the bill of rights. In India, we call it "Fundamental Rights."
The fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution are those that are regarded as such. These may be supplemented in some cases by claims that gain prominence as a result of a country's unique history and customs.
Although legal recognition gives our rights a special place in society, it is not the basis for asserting rights. The vast majority of asserted rights, however, are directed at the government. People use these rights to make demands on the government.
Rights spell out not only what the government must do, but also what it must avoid. Our rights ensure that the state's authority is exercised in a way that does not endanger individual life or liberty.
Kinds of Rights
Political rights, which are closely linked to citizenship status, refer to an individual's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without fear of discrimination or repression.
Not only do you have the right to vote in elections, but you also have the right to join a political party, run for office, and attend political rallies, events, and protests freely.
● Political rights are supplemented by civil liberties. Collectively they both form the basis of the democratic system of government.
● Political rights contribute to it by making the government accountable to the people, by giving greater importance to the concerns of the individual over that of the rulers and by ensuring that all persons have an opportunity to influence the decisions of the government.
Economic rights comprise basic needs of food shelter, clothing, health. All the democratic societies are now on the verge or are getting started with providing all of their citizens with economic rights.
In some countries, citizens, particularly those with low incomes, receive housing and medical facilities from the state; in others, unemployed persons receive a certain minimum wage so that they can meet their basic needs.
The Indian government has recently introduced a rural employment guarantee scheme, among other measures to help the poor.
The objective of these rights is to guarantee that people and communities have an access to culture and can participate in the culture of their selection.
Cultural rights are human rights that aim at assuring the enjoyment of culture and its components in conditions of equality, human dignity and non-discrimination.
The right to have primary education in one’s mother tongue, the right to establish institutions for teaching one’s language and culture, is today recognised as being necessary for leading a good life.
Rights and Responsibilities
Rights not only place obligations upon the state to act in a certain way — for instance, to ensure sustainable development — but they also place obligations upon each of us.
● Firstly, they compel us to think not just of our own personal needs and interests but to defend some things as being good for all of us.
● Secondly, they require that I respect the rights of others. If I say that I must be given the right to express my views I must also grant the same right to others.
● Thirdly, we must balance our rights when they come into conflict. For instance, my right to freedom of expression allows me to take pictures; however, if I take pictures of a person bathing in his house without his consent and post them on the internet, that would be a violation of his right to privacy
● Fourthly, citizens must be vigilant about limitations that may be placed on their rights. A currently debated topic concerns the increased restrictions which many governments are imposing on the civil liberties of citizens on the grounds of national security.
Even though rights can never be absolute, we need to be vigilant in protecting our rights and those of others for they form the basis of a democratic society.