The UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] a statement of universal goals concerning human rights and freedom although it is not legally binding; its content has been incorporated into many national constitutions including ours. People are slowly becoming aware of the human rights. Hence, they have increasingly refused to accept regimes that do not provide for the perfection of human rights.
The concept of’human rights’ does not have one single explanation or definition for it includes a multiplicity of factors that are interlinked. For the purpose of our study we may consider a few of the simple definitions of the concept.
i. “Human rights are literally the rights that one has simply because one is a human being”. – Jack Donnelly, a leading human rights activist.
ii. “Human rights are those basic rights which everyone inherits the moment one is conceived in the mother’s womb.”
iii. In simple words, it could be said that “human rights are those basic standards without which men cannot live in dignity”.
The above definitions or explanations make it clear that human rights are a part and parcel of human life. People, thus, cannot lose their human rights, no matter what they do. These rights constitute the basic requirements of dignified life. Hence, they form a basic framework for the administration of society and political organisation. All civilised societies are expected to protect and ensure these human rights.
i. Human rights include the following rights –
ii. the right to life
iii. the right to food
iv. the right to shelter and necessities
v. the right to health
vi. the right to education
vii. the right to dignity and liberty, and
viii. the right to be free.
The ‘human rights’ mentioned above reveal certain characteristics which may be mentioned below:
1. Human rights are natural rights that all human beings possess simply by virtue of being human.
2. Human rights are held by all persons equally and universally.
3. Human rights are irrevocable – they cannot be revoked or suspended for political expediency.
4. Human rights are inalienable – one cannot lose these rights any more than one can cease being a human being.
5. Human rights are indivisible – one cannot be denied a right because it is ‘less important’ or ‘nonessential’.
6. Human rights are interdependent – all human rights are part of a complementary framework. For example, the ability to participate in government is directly affected by the right to express, to get some education, and even to obtain the necessities of life.
“Human rights” – as the very term indicates represent the rights of all human beings of both the sex, men and women. Individuals of both the sex are born with these rights. Human rights are God- given or Nature-given rights. Both men and women have equal access to these rights. No discrimination is allowed or imposed in the exercise of these rights.
It is a fact of history that women have been denied equal rights for centuries. The “philosophy of human rights” became popular only during the second half of the 20th century and the issue of “gender equality” and “equal rights” for women assumed importance only after 1970’s.
The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by the UNO on 10th December 1948 both directly and indirectly influenced its member nations to extend these rights to women also. India which joined the UNO after its independence paid sufficient importance to the human rights by incorporating many of these in its constitution. India which adopted a Constitution of its own in 1949 contains several Articles mandating equality and non-discrimination on the ground of sex.