What are Human Rights? The Basic Facts
A Professor once told me that there is no such thing as an objective argument, everything we do, say or think is automatically coloured by our life experiences and therefore subject to our own opinions - no-one can be truly independent.
In a similar way, any discussion on the basic facts of human rights will be coloured by the speaker. A religious speaker will talk in terms of right to worship and the specific teachings of their holy scripture; a political speaker will discuss the issue in terms of global dynamics and the needs of society. Anyone legally trained will talk in terms of The Human Rights Act and the European Court OF Human Rights. I think the facts are an amalgamation of all these different points of view and come down to basic human needs.
In today’s society it isn’t long before some problem is said to be a ‘human rights’ issue. People see human rights in diversely different ways, from the travellers’ right to roam to the landowners’ right to eject them from their property; the woman’s right to have an abortion to the unborn child’s right to life. It seems that the set of principles called HUMAN RIGHTS is often the convenient battering ram or get-out clause. I think that the answer to the question is much simpler: Family.
The Human FamilyAs members of our own family we have, if we are lucky, people that surround us, love us and protect us. We may also be part of a larger, but equally close-knit, community, where everyone knows everyone else. After that we are a part of our society, local and national. We have rights to vote, rights of expression and personal freedom. Over and above all of this, we are a part of the human family. We are all members of the human race, with our many and varied lifestyles and beliefs. We are essentially one colossal family, with all of the responsibilities that come with it.
You may be thinking at this point that I am putting a religious or philosophical spin on the issue; I’m not. This is a simple fact, as I see it.
Whenever human rights issues are brought forward they are always contested, with both sides vehemently arguing that the law should be applied in their favour. This is part of being a family, there are two sides to every argument and both have an equal right to be heard. Of course this also means that one side must either concede to the other or lose the argument. The very fact that, as a society we have the right to argue in the first place is one of the most basic tenets of human rights, that is freedom of speech.
Basic NeedsIn a world where millions are starving and dying of preventable disease, it is all too easy to forget that these people, whose lives are not as blessed with technology and money as ours, still have the basic rights that we take for granted; food, housing, health, education and work, to name but a few. Why is it then that these needs cannot be met from within their own shores? Why is it that western countries are needed to help them bring themselves up to the basic standards that we are so used to? I am not a political commentator, nor am I an activist, I simply say it as I see it.
The Need for CohesionSo what exactly are the basic facts of human rights? Simply put they are the essential needs that society, and we as members of that society, are required to provide for each other and ourselves. Any authority that seeks to deprive us of the opportunity or the ability to provide those rights is in breach of its responsibility under The Human Rights Act. They require that all people, all human beings, have a right to survive, provide, and be free from discrimination, oppression or slavery. They also give us the right to protest.
However, as with everything there is a proviso, our right to have these needs and rights met is always tempered by the idea that our exercising those rights does not infringe on someone else’s rights. This is where the majority of arguments come from, someone perceives that their rights have been breached by the actions of another, often unintentionally.
This is where our human rights are most important, they give us our basic freedom, while ensuring that our most basic needs are met by those that seek to run the country we call home.