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ON THE NOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
1.0 Introduction: THE MORALITY OF POPULATION CONTROL
The aim of this chapter is to discuss the concept of human rights. This chapter will look at the concept from different perspectives in order to have a meaningful discussion on it. It would also make reference to rights. The chapter will also identify and characterize forms of human rights as conceived by scholars and consider arguments for human rights.
1. 1 On the Concept of Rights
There have been disagreements about what is meant by the term “rights”. The concept of rights is one with different views and may in some situations depend on the age of the citizen .For example, as a child(minor), my father is obliged to take care of me but upon attaining the age of 18,I have the right to leave my father’s house but it is constitutionally approved of me to do so if I want to but it actually depends one’s country and the constitution abides with and would lead us to different scholars who hold different views about what right is and gave different perspectives to it .Various definitions have been offered by different scholars who gave their view about rights. For instance, Joseph Omoregbe claims that rights are the privileges that individuals are entitled to enjoy1. Rights can either be legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system or social convention, thus, there have been considerable debates about what the term, “rights” means2.
There are diverse things that are seen as rights. One could consider different usage of the term “rights” such as to know its different ways it is been used and consider its multiple understandings and senses it is used; right to life, right to vote, right to assembly right to education ,right to own a property.3 We are also have special rights called immunities which is also considered as special rights which elected officers and political appointees are privilege to due to their various offices and which lapse at the end of their tenure in office. In my own opinion ,I believe rights is one which one has irrespective of one’s race, sex, beliefs, nationality e.t.c. but rights varies in terms of immunities because a president’s rights is different from ordinary citizens rights e.g. if an elected executive officers is accused of corruption ,embezzlement or misappropriation of funds due to their offices they are privileged to ,they would not be tried or charged to court at that moment as a result attached to their office unlike an ordinary citizen who works in a private sector or a civil servant who misappropriate funds and who would be tried at the instance. These are special rights available to certain citizens of a country and we also have other types of rights which includes political, legal, human and natural rights which are sub-classes of moral rights that humans have because of their nature.
1.2 Defining What Human Rights is
A Right is seen from different perspectives by different people. For instance, what right is to the ordinary man on the street is different from what it is described among persons of a learned nature. Again, the way a non-philosophic mind will try to answer the question; what human rights is, is expectedly going to be different from the way a philosopher will approach the question .This means that as “rights” is interpreted differently; the construction is determined by a level of understanding of the subject matter. From my own point of view, human rights are rights that are natural to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, tribe, ethnic, religion, language e.t.c. Human rights also posits that we are entitled to equality before the law.
Human rights are moral principles or norms which describe certain standards of human behavior, they are regularly protected as legal rights in the internal affairs of a nation and this is also included in international laws and charters4. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights which are guaranteed “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because they are human beings, and which are inherent in all human beings regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status”5.These are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal and they are egalitarian(social equity) in the sense of being the same for everyone. They require intellectual identification of thoughts and the rule of law and impose an obligation on persons to respect the dignity of others. They should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances; for example, human rights may include freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution6. In John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government;
it could be understood that the primacy of the individual to the society that every individual has certain rights which are inalienable either by any other individual or the state, the idea of equality of citizenship, the authority of governments as derivatives of the consent of the individual persons in the state and the limit of the power wielded by the state as not absolute7.
Furthermore, the doctrine of human rights has been highly influential within international law, and regional institutions.8States carry out actions and non-governmental organizations to form a basis of public policy all over the world. There have been strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights which continue to appeal to debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights till today. The precise meaning of the term right is controversial and is the subject of continued philosophical debate;9 while there is consensus that human rights encompasses a wide variety of rights such as the right to a fair trial, prohibition of genocide (the systematic killing of substantial numbers of people on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, social status or other particularities),free speech,10or a right to education there is disagreement about which of these particular rights should be included within the general framework of human rights.11 Some thinkers also believe that human rights should be a minimum requirement to avoid improper treatment, while others see it as a higher standard.12 Human rights are powerful because they change people from being an object in their own life to being a subject in their own life; human rights movement now makes it a culture for people to see themselves as rights holders13.
Also, Beitz John writes that “it is the case that the duties associated with human rights often require actions involving respect, protection, and provision. Human rights are usually required in the sense of imposing duties on their addressees, but some legal human rights seem to do little more than declaring high-priority goals and designate responsibility for their progressive realization”14. Further, it’s of my own opinion that human rights could also exist independently of legal enactment(a piece of legislation that has been properly authorized by a legislative body) by being part of actual human moralities ,all human groups seem to have moralities: which are normal behavior backed by reasons and values. These moralities contain specific norms for example, disallowing intentional murder of an innocent person, and specific values for example; human life. One way in which human rights could exist apart from divine or human enactment is as norm accepted in almost all actual human moralities. If almost all human groups have moralities containing norms prohibiting murder, these norms could constitute the human right to life. Human rights can be seen as basic moral norms shared by all or almost all accepted human moralities In general, the philosophy of human rights addresses questions about the existence, content, nature, universality, justification, and legal status of human rights.
1.3 Characterizing Human Right
1.3.1 Human Rights are Universal and Inalienable
Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary and international laws, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights laws lay down obligations for governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom of individuals or groups15. The principle of universality of human rights has been the foundation international human rights law. In 1948, The Universal Declaration on Human Rights firstly emphasized on this principle which has been shown in several international human rights convention .There was also a conference on Human Rights which was held in Vienna in 1993 which also emphasized that it is the duty of the States to protect and promote human rights despite what exist in their political, economic and cultural systems .16 In my own opinion, I believe Human Rights are inalienable because they are endowed on an individual due to the nature of his or her own existence and it is also inherent in all individuals. They cannot be taken away, except in some situations and according to due process as mentioned earlier. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.